Flat start seen for Asian markets after mixed leads from US and Europe; Australia’s largest bank reports interim results

<p>Asian stocks are set for a flat start on mixed offshore leads. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat after booking earlier losses.  There was […]</p>

Asian stocks are set for a flat start on mixed offshore leads.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat after booking earlier losses.  There was some growing optimism towards the end of the session around Greece as leaders seem set to commit towards austerity measures needed to secure a second bailout.

Stocks fell in the US earlier on weaker than expected retail sales numbers which grew by only 0.4% in January compared to market estimates of 0.8% growth.

The Euro last traded at 1.3125 against the US dollar, the Australian dollar was slightly weaker at 1.0685 and the Japanese Yen also weakening, with the US dollar last buying around 78.42.

Copper was lower again overnight, down by 0.7% while gold hovers around US$1720/oz.

Australian corporate news will be dominated today by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) – the largest domestic bank and also one of the largest in the Asian region – booking a solid earnings number. The interim result is in line with market expectations with cash earnings of $3.58bn.

The result was driven by an improvement in all divisions except for wealth management which has no doubt been impacted by weakness in equities markets. The interim dividend of 137 cents per share was slightly below market estimates of around 141 cents per share so there might be some very slight disappointment here.

Elsewhere, Westfield Group – one of the largest retail landlords in the world – announce a result that was in line with market expectations, slightly weaker guidance but more importantly a buyback of shares to be funded by asset sales in the US and UK. The agreement in the US will see 12 assets divested for around US$4.8bn while in the UK three non-core centres will be sold for around GBP159m.

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