Here are the stories from the S&P/ASX 200 (INDEXASX: XJO)(^AXJO) and Australian finance circles today.

The ASX 200 is expected to open lower, according to futures trading in Sydney, after a tough day on the US markets on Friday.

First, here are the data points:

Australian Dollar ($A) (AUDUSD): 71.73 US cents

Dow Jones (DJI): down 2%

Oil (WTI): $US51.23 per barrel

Gold: $US1,238 per ounce

ASX 200 News

In sharemarket news today, ship maker Austal Limited (ASX: ASB) announced it was awarded a contract to build two Littoral Combat Ships for the US Navy worth less than $US584 million per ship.

The reason Austal cannot disclose the value is for competition reasons. Instead, it said the value is below US congressional limits.

This new order for the two ships takes the total Littoral Combat Ship orders to four.

“This latest order from the US Navy is a tremendous endorsement of Austal’s unique aluminium trimaran and further evidence of the important role Austal plays in building the United States Navy,” Austal CEO David Singleton said.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd (ASX: WPL) announced its joint venture oil project in Senegal will begin front-end engineering (FEED) in early 2019.

“We plan to progress the SNE development towards the earliest possible commercialisation of the discovered resources. Completing FEED activities will be a key enabler of a final investment decision,” Woodside CEO Peter Coleman said.

The venture could be capable of tapping 100,000 barrels per day and begin producing oil in 2022.

Finally, BHP Billiton Ltd (ASX: BHP) announced the completion of its $US5.2 billion share buy-back and said it will pay a $US1.02 per share special dividend in January 2019.

“We are pleased to have completed the Off-Market Buy-Back which, together with the Special Dividend, will deliver on our commitment to return the net proceeds from the sale of our Onshore US assets to our shareholders,” BHP chief financial offer, Peter Beaven said.

“Completion of this program will bring total cash returned to shareholders to US$21 billion over the last two years.”

Last week, our investment analyst took a close look at BHP shares: “3 Reasons I Don’t Own BHP shares”

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Disclaimer: Any information contained in this article is limited to general financial/investment advice only. The information has not taken into account your specific needs, goals or objectives, so please consider consulting a licenced and trusted adviser before acting on the information. Please read The Rask Group’s Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information. This article is authorised by Owen Raszkiewicz of The Rask Group, which is a corporate authorised representative No. 1264179 of Strawman Pty Ltd (ACN: 610 908 211) (AFSL: 501 223).