Toll sees biggest takeover in 14 years, Oil drops 5.7%


The major U.S. averages finished the Wednesday session on a flat note thanks to a late afternoon crawl that lifted the market off its low. The S&P 500 ended unchanged while the Nasdaq outperformed, adding 0.1. The S&P 500 spiked off its low and made a brief appearance in the green following the FOMC minutes from the January meeting. The minutes revealed a high likelihood that the Fed will not be raising rates any time soon due to several risks including declining inflation and weak global growth. Six of ten sectors posted gains, but only three—industrials ( +0.6% ) , consumer staples ( +0.6% ) , and utilities ( + 2.4% )—added more than 0.3%. On the flip side, financials ( -0.6% ) surrendered their gain from yesterday while the energy sector (-1.2% ) was responsible for much of the early weakness. Airlines led the way thanks to lower oil prices with United Continental surging 2.8%. New housing starts declined 2.0% in January to 1.065 million.

The S&P 500 settled on 2,099.68. In the Australian market, Toll Holdings shares jumped 47% after Japan Post ( unlisted ) made a AU$6.5 billion dollar takeover offer. The offer was the largest international bid for an Australian company in fourteen years. The European Central Bank on Wednesday approved a request from Greece ’ s central bank to lend €68.3 billion ( US$77.8 billion ) to its country's banks through an emergency credit facility. Under ELA, whose loans carry a higher interest rate than normal ECB credit, Greek banks can still post junk-rated Greek government bonds as collateral. The caveat is that the credit risk stays on the books of the Greek central bank rather than being spread throughout the entire 19-member Eurozone. European stock markets moved sharply higher on Wednesday as a result. The Stoxx Europe 600 index picked up 0.9% to end at 380.37, marking the highest close since November 2007. Greece ’ s Athex Composite index added 1.1% to 847.53, reversing after a 2.5% slide on Tuesday. Shares of Peugeot SA rose 6.7% after it narrowed its loss in 2014, boosted by strong sales in China and cost cutting. Credit Agricole SA jumped 7.6% after reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings. The bank also said it would name its new CEO soon. Accor SA gained 2.2% after the hotel group said profit rose 77% last year.


Oil settled at 50.48 per barrel on Wednesday, falling $3.05 per barrel, or 5.7 percent. Crude oil futures were unable to build on more than 1 percent gains in the previous session as rising inventories continue to curb rallies. Industry spending cutbacks and falling U.S. rig counts were offset by turmoil around Libyan refineries and elsewhere in the Middle East. Gold hit a fresh six-week low on Wednesday, extending the previous day's 1.8 percent drop, as hopes for a successful resolution to Greece's debt talks boosted assets seen as higher risk, such as stocks. Spot gold was down 0.2 percent at $1,206.85


At the U.S. central bank's latest meeting, policymakers expressed concern that raising interest rates too soon could stall the U.S. economic recovery and debated the impact that low inflation measures were having on the Fed's confidence in proceeding with raising rates. The dollar remained flat as a result, signalling the comments were in line with the markets expectations. The New Zealand dollar rose, touching a record against the Aussie dollar, after minutes of the Federal Reserve's last meeting suggested officials may favour keeping US interest rates lower for longer The kiwi jumped to 75.52 US cents at it ’ s highest. The GBP traded mostly higher after U.K. employment data showed last quarter's unemployment rate was 5.7 perc