ASX Market Wrap: Gives Up Early Gains but Closes in the Green

SYDNEY -- Despite two nights of positive news out of the U.S. and a strong early start, the Australian market couldn't hold onto the best of the day's gains, but it still closed in positive territory.

The S&P/ASX 200 (INDEX: ^AXJO) closed at 4,375.2, and the All Ordinaries (INDEX: ^AORD) at 4,445.0 -- both up 0.3%. The ASX 200 was up around 0.75% after the first 10 minutes of trading, but that was to be the high point of the day, with the index giving ground largely unchecked throughout the day.

The Dow Jones Index had closed overnight up 0.7% after a gain of 0.6% the previous night, and the S&P 500 gained a total of 1.8% over the two nights. While the Nasdaq was off 0.3% on Tuesday night, it well and truly recovered that loss with a gain of more than 2% last night.

Jobs were in the spotlight today, with reports that Ford (NYS: F) plans to stand down 1,800 workers in Victoria, while the St. George division of Westpac (NYS: WBK) looks to outsource 200 jobs, some potentially to India and elsewhere.

The big mover on the market today was television and newspaper proprietor Seven West Media. The company had released an earnings downgrade almost an hour and a half after the market closed on Tuesday, before the ANZAC Day closure. If Seven West had hoped to avoid too much press about its downgrade, investors certainly nixed that: Almost a quarter of the company's market value disappeared in the six hours of trade today, when shares dropped 22.8%.

Much of the media sector felt the chill of the ill wind, with APN News & Media down 2.4%, Fairfax Media off 2.8%, Southern Cross Media down 4%, and Ten Network down 0.6%.

News Corporation (NAS: NWS) managed to buck the trend, closing up 0.1%, probably due to its now proportionally small exposure to traditional media in Australia. And investors may have been relieved that Rupert Murdoch's evidence at the UK's Leveson Media Inquiry didn't unearth any further damaging revelations.

Meanwhile, TPG Telecom was today fined $13,200 for misleading advertising, putting Telstra, Singapore Telecommunications subsidiary Optus, and iPrimus -- now owned by M2 Telecommunications -- on notice for including too many "fine print qualifications" in their advertising material.

The telecom sector led the gains on the ASX today, up 1.1%, followed by health care, up 0.9%, and utilities, which rose 0.7% in today's trading. Laggers were led by consumer discretionary stocks, down 0.9%, and the Australian REIT sector, which was off just 0.1%.

The ASX 200 was led by a trio of resources-related companies, with OneSteel up 4.3%, Sandfire Resources gaining 4.2%, and Paladin Energy rising 4.1%. Other notable gainers included the Bank of Queensland, up 3.6%, Imdex, up 3.5% and Boart Longyear, which gained 3.5%.

The largest losses on the ASX 200 were recorded by the aforementioned Seven West Media. Daylight was second, followed by Southern Cross Media. Of the bottom 15 performers on the ASX today, it was perhaps no surprise that four were media companies.

Among the non-media stocks, the largest losses were Newcrest Mining, down 3.9%, AWE Limited, which fell 3.3%, Whitehaven Coal, losing 3.3%, and Troy Resources, which fell 3.2%.

With consumer spending so soft, it's a brave investor who has significant exposure to media and retailing at the moment -- but on the other hand, as Baron Rothschild was quoted as saying, perhaps the best time to buy is when there's blood in the streets.

In either circumstance, the long term is what matters, not the daily gyrations of the market.

The ASX is already on the move in 2012, and Goldman Sachs experts recently said they reckon S&P/ASX 200 could top 5,000 next year. "Read This Before The Coming Market Rally" is a must-read for investors who don't want to miss out on the party. Click here now to request your free copy before it's too late.

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Scott Phillips is an investment analyst with The Motley Fool. Scott owns shares in Telstra. You can follow him on Twitter@TMFGilla. Take Stock is The Motley Fool Australia's free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. Click here now to request your free subscription while it's still available. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691).

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