The Australian sharemarket is set for a flat start today after world markets dropped ahead of the release of corporate earnings in the United States.
The ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was up 3 points at 4,668.
On Tuesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index dropped 27.1 points, or 0.57 per cent, to 4,690.2, and the broader All Ordinaries index lost 25.8 points, or 0.54 per cent, to 4,712.3.
What you need to know
- SPI futures up 3 points to 4468
- In the US, the S&P500 is down 0.5 per cent to 1455.34
- In Europe, London's FTSE finished down 0.2 per cent to 6053.63
- Germany's DAX dropped 0.5 per cent to 7695.83
- Gold up to $US1660.10 an ounce
- New York Oil trading at $US93.17 per barrel
- Iron ore is up 3 per cent at $US158.5 per tonne
- AUD trading at $US1.0497
In local economic news on Wednesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases retail trade data and job vacancies numbers for November.
Commonwealth Bank economist Gareth Aird said rate cuts towards the end of 2012 should support retail sales due to an increase in household disposable income.
"In addition, labour market indicators suggest that employment is holding up better than perceived in the media," Mr Aird said.
"Against this, however, is a heightened degree of consumer caution due to problems in the global economy and the expected slowdown in the domestic economy. We think the likely outcome is for retails sales to grow by a 0.5 per cent in November," he said.
Meanwhile, the Housing Industry Association will release new home sales figures for November.
Aluminum maker Alcoa will report its fourth quarter financial results later on Wednesday, beginning weeks of earnings announcements from US companies.
The Australian dollar is trading at $US1.0497, having once again pushed over $US1.05 in overnight trading. The local currency is worth 91.53 Japanese yen, 80.26 euro cents, 65.39 British pence and 1.26 New Zealand dollars.
US stocks fell on Tuesday as the market consolidated from last week's rally on the "fiscal cliff" deal in Congress and investors awaited the start of the earnings season with lowered expectations.
"We had a brief respite courtesy of what happened on the fiscal cliff deal and the flip of the calendar with new money coming into the market," said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management.
"But now the stark reality of uncertainty with regard to earnings, plus the negotiations on the debt ceiling, are there and that doesn't give investors a lot of reason to take bets on the long side."
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 73.13 points, or 0.55 per cent, to 13,311.16. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 6.91 points, or 0.47 per cent, to 1,454.98. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 12.68 points, or 0.41 per cent, to 3,086.13.
Britain's blue chip shares slipped on Tuesday, hampered by profit taking on mining stocks ahead of economic data from China, and as the US corporate earnings season came into focus. The FTSE 100 closed down 10.95 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 6,053.63, extending declines from Monday when it fell for the first time this year.
Japan's Nikkei fell on Tuesday as investors turned cautious over the index's recent rapid gains and sold shares in exporters as the yen's depreciation paused, while buying in defensive shares supported sentiment.
The Nikkei dropped 0.9 per cent to 10,508.06 points, just above its 5-day moving average of 10,502.67.
Gold rose back above $US1,650 an ounce on Tuesday, helped by a recovery in stock markets and a rise in physical demand after a three-session price slide, but concerns over the scope of US monetary easing kept a lid on gains.
Spot gold was up 0.6 per cent at $US1,655.90 an ounce, while US gold futures for December delivery were up $US9.70 an ounce at $US1,656.00. Trading held in a narrow range, however, on uncertainty over US monetary policy.
Brent crude edged higher and US heating oil futures received support from winter temperatures, while US crude slipped as Wall Street equities dipped and the dollar strengthened.
Brent February crude rose 58 cents to $US111.98 a barrel, having reached a session peak of $US112.47. US February crude was down 12 cents at $US93.07 a barrel, having swung from $US92.67 to $US93.80.
BusinessDay with wires