ASX briefly hits 7,300 intra-day, before closing 0.2% lower

The Australian sharemarket fizzled to the close after investors turned nervous about the impact of surging oil prices against a backdrop of multi-year high inflation. The local bourse touched 7,300 before fading to start the week on a back foot.

The tech sector was the clear winner, followed by energy and utilities, which rebounded in the afternoon session, while industrials and healthcare dragged.

Major banks fell in the afternoon session, with Macquarie Group (ASX:MQG) up 0.1 per cent to $195.01, while National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) fell 1 per cent to $30.90, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) dipped 0.6 per cent to $105.70, Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) slid 0.5 per cent to $23.55 and ANZ Banking Group (ASX:ANZ) closed flat at $27.58.

Meanwhile, Hamish Douglass resigned from Magellan Financial’s (ASX:MFG) board following a decision to step down as chairman in February on medical leave. Shares closed 3.8 per cent lower at $15.14.

Gold stocks fell as Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) dropped 2.7 per cent to $25.27, Northern Star (ASX:NST) fell 2.4 per cent to $10.40 and Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) closed 1.3 per cent lower at $4.41.

Afterpay owner Block (ASX:SQ2) led the market, up 9.2 per cent to $184.40. Over the last five trading days, Block had been up 37 per cent.

Energy stocks closed higher, led by Santos (ASX:STO) up 1.1 per cent to $7.62. Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) rose 0.9 per cent to $31.65 and Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) closed 0.3 per cent higher at $1.57.

Amid news around Australia’s help to Ukraine, Whitehaven Coal (ASX:WHC) closed 0.9 per cent higher at $4.02.

AGL Energy (ASX:AGL) was up 0.8 per cent to $7.27 after the giant received the green light from the state government to build a 500 megawatt battery on a coal-fired plant in NSW, three times the size of Tesla’s battery in South Australia.

Qube (ASX:QUB) announced a $400 million off-market buyback program via a tender process. At its half-year results in late February, Qube said it intended to return $400 million of capital to shareholders in FY22 following completion of the Moorebank Logistics Park transaction. Shares closed 1.8 per cent higher at $3.06.

Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) led iron ore players, up 0.8 per cent to $18.71. BHP Group (ASX:BHP) lifted 0.4 per cent to $46.45 and Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) edged 0.1 per cent higher at $110.44.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.2 per cent or 16 points lower at 7,279.

Company news

Eagers Automotive (ASX:APE) entered into a non-binding agreement with Australian Motor Group to sell its Bill Buckle Auto business and associated properties in Sydney’s Northern Beaches for around $92 million. Shares closed 4 per cent higher at $13.02.

Link Administration (ASX:LNK) said regulatory approvals have been finalised for the Dye & Durham takeover bid announced in December, with completion expected to occur in June or July. Shares closed 1.4 per cent higher at $5.16.

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a fall of 131 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a fall of 16 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a fall of 67 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a fall of 20 points when the market next opens.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Information Technology, up 2.5 per cent. The worst-performing sector was Industrials, down 1.2 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Block (ASX:SQ2), closing 9.2 per cent higher at $184.40. It was followed by shares in Life360 (ASX:360) and EML Payments (ASX:EML).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was De Grey Mining (ASX:DEG), closing 7.7 per cent lower at $1.21. It was followed by shares in Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals (ASX:CUV) and Magellan Financial Group (ASX:MFG).

Asian markets

Japan’s Nikkei is closed due to the Vernal Equinox.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has lost 0.4 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has lost 0.2 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1927.11 an ounce.
Iron ore is 3.0 per cent higher at US$151.35 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a fall of 0.7 per cent.
Light crude is trading $3.45 higher at US$106.54 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 73.98 US cents.