Slight recovery but bad news on the horizon

MOST PNG resource companies are in positive ground this week, but the nation’s petroleum and mining industries have also faced several unexpected developments.

Shock news this week - not officially announced by Liquid Niugini Gas - is the March resignation of its chief executive officer, Dr Jack Hamilton.

Hamilton has moved away from the liquefied natural gas industry to take up the position of managing director and chief executive at coal technology firm Exergen.

While his reasons for departing are not clear at this stage, the news puts question marks over the LNG joint venture despite the recent progress from major stakeholder InterOil at Antelope-1.

InterOil also delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday, and the price included in the tables today comes from its last quotation on the exchange.

Next week will start monitoring the company's American listing.

A third surprise comes from a report in the Post Courier newspaper that Barrick Gold will mothball the Kainantu gold mine, which it acquired from Highlands Pacific back in late 2007.

However, it should be noted that Highlands Pacific bolstered its books considerably by selling the loss making mine.

Looking at commodities, current cash official prices on the London Stock Exchange have copper at $US3125 a tonne and nickel at $US10,985/t.

Various reports have attributed the recent falls in the metal prices to increases in world stockpiles and concerns about China.

Economic data from China covering the last three months of 2008 suggested the industrial powerhouse nation's GDP growth had slowed to 6.8%, which is a bad sign given the previous expectations of 8% GDP annual growth for China this year.

Asia Pacific benchmark Singapore Tapis crude rose to as high as $US49.44 on Monday (Australia Day), but has slumped again to $US47.02 a barrel overnight, not far from the $US46.65 level of a week ago.

While the commodities downturn has hit PNG hard in copper and oil prices, gold is starting to strengthen.

Spot gold prices are at $US903.3 an ounce today up, nearly $US5 from the close last Friday, while Comex gold is trading at $US905.10.

Oil Search has posted a 5% gain on the Australian Securities Exchange for the week, bolstered by the support of various brokers on the back of its PNG LNG credentials. Macquarie Research has reinitiated an outperform rating and a $7.60 target price for the company.

Major percentage gains have been made by a lot of the juniors and microcaps; however, it should be noted the performance pales in comparison to the share price falls experienced over the past months as the global financial crisis lingers on.

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