Crown Gambles as Retail Sales Rise


SYDNEY -- The S&P/ASX 200 (INDEX: ^AXJO) index has closed up 0.2% to 4,269.5, a reversal of yesterday's 0.2% fall. Investors appear to be sitting on the sidelines following the Federal Reserve announcement of no new stimulus measures for the U.S. economy.

The Fed did say it was ready to take action if needed, but that wasn't enough for the markets, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average subsequently fell 0.3%.

There could be "blood in the streets" if the European Central Bank takes the same approach at its meeting today, with investors likely pinning their hopes on more action and less rhetoric.

Retail sales figures climbed by 1% from May to June as government handouts and interest rate cuts have likely fueled a spending spree on food, cafes, restaurants, clothing, and footwear. Department store sales were strong, rising 3.4%.

The Australian dollar has fallen slightly against the U.S. dollar, now buying 104.8 U.S. cents.

Company news
In big news today, James Packer's Crown (ASX: CWN.AX) has struck a deal to build a AU$1 billion hotel and casino development at Barangaroo, on Sydney's foreshore. Crown signed an agreement with developer Lend Lease earlier today, but Crown said it will only go ahead if it gains approval to include VIP gambling facilities -- i.e., a casino.

Woodside Petroleum (ASX: WPL.AX) and its partners are facing stiff opposition to its controversial Browse LNG project, which would turn James Price Point in Western Australia into one of Australia's largest gas export terminals. Conservation groups have lodged a flood of appeals against the WA Environmental Protection Authority's conditional approval of the project.

Winners and losers
Of the majors, Fortescue Metals (ASX: FMG.AX) and Alumina Limited both posted 5%-plus rises today, ending at AU$4.38 and $0.705 cents, respectively.

Health-care stocks were the losers, with investors most likely taking some profits after a strong run by the sector in recent times. CSL was down 2.4% to AU$41.35, while Sonic Health Care fell 1.7% to AU$12.49.

Foolish takeaway
All eyes will be on the European Central Bank today as policymakers meet yet again. Investors will be hoping for stronger words and bolder action than those displayed by the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee last night.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King owns shares in CSL and Woodside. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors.The Motley Fool's purpose is to help the world invest, better. Take Stock is The Motley Fool'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). Authorized by Bruce Jackson.

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