ASX flirts with a fresh record high, up 0.2% at noon

Aussie shares are flirting with a fresh record high as it marches for a fifth straight day as investors mull on the prospect of tighter monetary policy. Investors are trading in a defensive manner as they digest the hawkish RBA minutes and monitor the New Zealand inflation rate which has hit a 32-year high of 6.9 per cent over the year in March.

As the local bourse looks to surpass the record high of 7632.6 on August 13 last year, utilities are the best performer gaining 2.2 per cent, followed by property and industrials both adding 1.6 per cent each. Information tech has erased all its gains for the week and more, trading 2.6 per cent lower, followed by materials, down 1.1 per cent, and consumer staples and communication services.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) is doing a lot of the heavy lifting, trading 0.9 per cent higher at $108.24 while BHP (ASX:BHP) has continued to fall for its second day, down 2.5 per cent at $50.97. Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) has rebounded 1.1 per cent higher at $33.05 while gold player is Northern Star (ASX:NST), up 1.2 per cent at $11.38.

Meanwhile, Brambles (ASX:BXB) rose the most since 15 February after boosting its underlying profit at constant currency rates forecast for the full year, jumping 6.9 per cent to $10.71 as the second best performer while Challenger (ASX:CGF) hit a 52 week high as the best performer, up 8.4 per cent to $7.40.

Traders are rewarding Challenger (ASX:CGF) after calculating that its fiscal 2022 profit ending June could hit nearly $500 million. The company revised its guidance “towards the upper end” of its $430 million to $480 million upward driven by momentum in the life business after sales rose 10 per cent to $2.7 billion in the third quarter. Fund outflows of 8 per cent to $100 billion were attributed by the derecognition of Whitehelm Capital. The investment manager recently bought bank MyLife MyFinance, however analysts believe integrating its banking and wealth business could come with headwinds if they take lead from the big banks divesting its wealth businesses.

Meanwhile, Megaport (ASX:MP1) plunged 18.2 per cent to $10.43, the most on record after its soft third quarter revenue update. Citi said the result was weaker than expected and saw misses on monthly recurring revenue and Megaport Virtual Edge additions.

Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) shares are trading 2.2 per cent lower at $115.69 after reporting a fall in quarterly iron ore shipments for its first quarter. While BHP’s (ASX:BHP) iron ore operations slipped in the March quarter as skills shortage continued to weigh, shipping 67.1 million tonnes of iron from its Pilbara operations versus estimates of 67.2 million tonnes. Shares are trading 2.5 per cent lower at $50.97. Analysts say that the production misses could hinder its recovery from its underperformance. 

In Asian markets, Hong Kong stocks are trading lower for its third straight day while Japan’s Nikkei is bucking the trend.

SPI futures

At noon, the S&P/ASX 200 is 0.2 per cent or 15.10 points higher at 7584.30.

The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 11 points.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector is utilities, up 2.2 per cent. The worst-performing sector is information technology, down 2.6 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Challenger (ASX:CGF), trading 8.4 per cent higher at $7.40. It is followed by shares in Brambles (ASX:BXB) and Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals (ASX:CUV).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Megaport (ASX:MP1), trading 16.9 per cent lower at $10.61. It is followed by shares in Block (ASX:SQ2) and Tyro Payments (ASX:TYR).

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1955.89 an ounce.
Iron ore is 0.6 per cent higher at US$150.70 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 0.55 per cent.
One Australian dollar is buying 74.37 US cents.