ASX up 1% at noon, Michael Hill soars 14% on jewellery snap up, 48 companies trade ex-div tomorrow

The Australian sharemarket is off to an encouraging start after coming back from a Christmas break. The moves followed a choppy finish on Wall St with the Dow as the outperformer. The mixed close comes after the S&P 500 snapped its four day winning streak and notched its 69th record high for the year.

Investors are watching closely to see if the Santa Claus rally will come to fruition which comprises the last five trading days of December and the first five of January. A period which has been a strong period historically for the market with the S&P 500 averaging a return of 1.7 per cent since 1928. With Wall St taking a breather, investors are crossing their fingers for the rally to resume in the next session.

All sectors are galloping, led by gains in energy, consumer staples, and utilities by 1.7, 1.6, and 1.3 per cent respectively. Communication services has added 0.2 per cent switching position from Christmas eve as the sector now adding the least. Information technology has added 0.4 per cent as the second last of the leader board of gains.

Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) is lifting the energy sector adding 2.7 per cent while Santos (ASX:STO) is trading 1.7 per cent higher.

On the miners front, iron ore giants are higher with Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) leading the pack, up 1.1 per cent, followed by BHP (ASX:BHP) adding 0.3 per cent while Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) is ekeing out a gain of 0.03 per cent, technically flat but in the green.

Meanwhile, Aussies are digesting the surge in Omicron cases around the nation. New South Wales recorded a staggering 11,201 while Victoria posted 3,767 confirmed cases.

Despite the wall of worries both personally and for the markets, traders appear to be focusing on the week ahead with 48 companies trading ex-dividend tomorrow which includes the likes of APA Group (ASX:APA), Charter Hall Group (ASX:CHC), Goodman Group (ASX:GMG), Dexus (ASX:DXS) and Transurban Group (ASX:TCL), a last minute spree to shape up their portfolio before year-end.

On the financials front, the major lenders are enjoying its limelight with gains of over 1 per cent with Westpac (ASX:WBC) leading, up 1.3 per cent, followed by a neck-to-neck performance by Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA) and ANZ Bank (ASX:ANZ) both adding 1 per cent while National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) is crawling higher at 0.7 per cent.

Tyro Payments’ (ASX:TYR) transaction value for the month to date is 36 per cent higher over the same period of financial 2021, as of the last transaction processed on 24 December. The payments provider has committed to provide weekly updates to the release of its full-year results. The company has processed $3.013 billion this time, against $2.214 billion in the same month to date of December last year. Shares are trading 0.2 per cent higher at $2.79.

Elsewhere, Select Harvests (ASX:SHV) is trading 0.2 per cent higher at $5.93 after reporting a fire which is now contained at its waste facility in north-west Victoria. The almond grower intends to submit a claim under its relevant policies for the entirety of its property and related business interruption. It expects almond receiving and processing will still proceed when the harvest begins in February next year.

National real estate company The Agency Group (ASX:AU1) has appointed Geoff Lucas to the role of managing director and chief executive officer as of January 28 next year. This comes after the Board and the current managing director Paul Niardone identified recruitment and growth potential on the ease side of the nation, and with that, saw the importance for the managing director to be situated accordingly. Mr Niardone, located in Western Australia has been appointed as executive director and will focus on the expansion of the financial services division and property tech opportunities. Shares are trading 2.1 per cent higher at $0.05.

In another management shake up, John Karantzis is set to step down as the managing director of iSignthis (ASX:ISX) but will remain as a non-executive director amid his relocation to Cyprus, while Tim Hart will be the executive chairman on an interim basis. Mr Karantzis will focus on the European side of the business which was demerged. ISignthis shares have been suspended since 2019.

Software communications platform designer Whispir (ASX:WSP) is set to embark on a three year deal with Singapore telco giant Singtel. The $1.3 million deal enables Whispir to upgrade Singtel’s SMS alerts systems while enhancing other communications services like WhatsApp for internal users. Shares are on the move trading 6.8 per cent higher at $2.04.

Michael Hill’s (ASX:MHJ) trading update flagged to investors that the retail jewellery group expects to see earnings before interest and taxes to come in higher than the $44.6 million in the previous corresponding period in financial year 2021. Shares are soaring over 14 per cent at $1.29.

At noon, the S&P/ASX 200 is almost 1 per cent or 73.50 points higher at 7493.80. The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 66 points.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector is energy adding 1.7 per cent while communication services has added the least, up 0.2 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Liontown Resources (ASX:LTR) trading 7.1 per cent higher at $1.65, followed by shares in Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS), and Appen (ASX:APX).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Paladin Energy (ASX:PDN) trading 2.3 per cent lower at $0.83, followed by shares in Afterpay (ASX:APT), and SkyCity Entertainment Grp (ASX:SKC).

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1806.36 an ounce.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a fall of 1.1 per cent.
One Australian dollar is buying 72.34 US cents.