ASX wraps up winning for a 2nd straight week, closing 1.5% higher

Aussie shares rose for a second straight week while it rallied for its fourth straight day as a tap of dividend payments streamed through. The strength in the resources heavy index was supported by investors buying into material and energy stocks amid the Australian dollar consolidating with a 75 handle to a five-month high.

Materials wins while healthcare loses

The local bourse tapped a two-month peak intra session in a choppy session this week with material, energy and technology shares rotating between first and last place in the performance space.

Today, materials was the best performer with BHP (ASX:BHP) up 0.9 per cent to $49.77, Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) gained 0.7 per cent to $116.87 while Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) closed 1.7 per cent higher to $19.27.

Though a special call out goes to Bluescope Steel (ASX:BSL) taking home the best performer of the session as it surged 5 per cent to $21.46, pushing the material sector higher.

Energy stocks rose defying the retreat in oil prices as European Union leaders avoided fresh action to cut imports of Russian crude while traders weighed up demand. This saw Santos (ASX:STO) add 0.7 per cent to $7.94 while Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) saw a mighty pump of 1.2 per cent to $33.59.

The major lenders came under pressure with Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA) hit the hardest, falling 1.3 per cent to $105.92. Macquarie Group (ASX:MQG) bucked the trend, closing 0.7 per cent to $197.87 amid the Australian bond yields rose, price fell as traders sell-out of the treasury note.

Healthcare was the worst performer, down 0.8 per cent as CSL (ASX:CSL) declined by 1 per cent to $264.81 followed by financials down 0.5 per cent, and information tech, also fell by 0.5 per cent dragged down by Block (ASX:SQ2) closing 3.1 per cent to $178.07. Consumer staples shed the least by 0.1 per cent.

Stocks we are watching

From the stocks we are watching, Atlas Arteria (ASX:ALX) recovered from its initial 2 per cent fall to close 0.9 per cent lower to $6.66 amid several broker downgrades.

Morgans downgraded its rating to a hold from an add with a price target of $6.41 while Macquarie also downgraded the Atlas Arteria (ASX:ALX) to neutral from outperform with its target price trimmed to $6.66 from $7.09 after an unfavourable exchange rate was taken into account. Additionally, French fuel prices have surged by 60 per cent from 2019 levels with car trips set to be cut by up to seven per cent.

Uniti (ASX:UWL) shares surged to 2.4 per cent to $4.7, up over 15 per cent for the week. Brookfield has joined the bidding war, teaming up with HRL Morrison to take on a Macquarie-led group who lobbied a $5 per share bid for the infrastructure-focused telco.

Company news

In earnings, fashion retail giant Premier Investments (ASX:PMV) unveiled its record interim dividend despite posting a 13 per cent fall in its net profit to $163.6 million for the 26 weeks ending 29 January this year. Its Peter Alexander brand clocked record sales in the 2022 fiscal year, buoying the performance of the conglomerate after 42,675 closed trading days due to government lockdowns. The owner of seven brands including Just Jeans, Peter Alexander, Smiggle, and Portmans recorded a revenue fall of 1.9 per cent to $770.3 million. The record dividend is up 35.3 per cent on the previous corresponding period to 46 cents per share and is set to be paid at the end of July. Shares fell to session lows of 1.6 per cent to $28.48.

In M&A’s, Healius (ASX:HLS) has put up for sale its Adora Fertility and three co-located Healius Day Hospitals for $30.5 million. The binding deal is with Liverpool Partners for an all cash transaction with the settlement slated for the end of this financial year, subject to conditions. The move comes after the ACCC jumped in to prevent the $45 million bid by Virtus Health to acquire the business in October last year. Shares fell 1.2 per cent lower to $4.22.

Shareholders in Z Energy (ASX:ZEL) voted in favour of the scheme of arrangement under which 100 per cent of the shares in the company will be acquired by Ampol Holdings NZ (ASX:ALD). The resolution was passed by the requisite majorities of shareholders of 75 per cent or more of the votes cast and more than 50 per cent of the total number of Z Energy shares on issue. Shares in Z Energy (ASX:ZEL) closed at $3.48 while shares in Ampol Holdings (ASX:ALD) closed at $29.91.

Several companies have gone into a trading halt including, Sequoia Financial (ASX:SEQ), Antilles Gold (ASX:AAU), Tietto Minerals (ASX:TIE).

What’s next?

In Asian markets, Japanese shares are higher for a ninth session, the longest winning streak since September amid a weaker yen while the Hang Seng is far from pretty, down 2.2 per cent at time of writing on renewed audit concerns that could lead to Chinese stocks listed on Wall St to delist.

As the agenda of international diplomacy continues, President Joe Biden who is now in Europe has discussed with the European Union and leaders from the seven largest economies around removing Russia from the G20. Mr Biden said “I raised the possibility if that can’t be done, if Indonesia and others do not agree then we should in my view have to have both Ukraine be able to attend the meetings”

Meanwhile, Washington’s aid to help Europe replace Russian gas imports is set to be unveiled today after European nations rejected Vladimir Putin’s plan for gas payments to be made in roubles, sparking confusion across energy markets.

Other than monitoring headlines in Europe, investors look to the plate of talks with Fed central bankers Mr Waller and Mr Bostic set to speak.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.3 per cent or 19 points higher at 7,406. Over the week, it closed 1.5 per cent or 112 points higher.

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 57 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 8 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a rise of 31 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 33 points when the market next opens.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Materials, up 1.3 per cent. The worst-performing sector was Health Care, down 0.8 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was BlueScope Steel (ASX:BSL), closing 5.1 per cent higher at $21.46. It was followed by shares in Brickworks (ASX:BKW) and Flight Centre Travel Group (ASX:FLT).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Telix Pharmaceuticals (ASX:TLX), closing 11.2 per cent lower at $4.21. It was followed by shares in Imugene (ASX:IMU) and Novonix (ASX:NVX).

Asian markets

Japan’s Nikkei has gained 0.1 per cent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has lost 2.2 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has lost 0.6 per cent.

Wall Street

Over the last four trading days, the Dow Jones lost 0.1 per cent, the S&P 500 gained 1.3 per cent and the Nasdaq gained 2.1 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1958.25 an ounce.
Iron ore is 0.1 per cent lower at US$146.35 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 2.24 per cent.
Light crude is trading $0.37 lower at US$111.97 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 75.21 US cents.