BHP leads major miners, Xero & Block weigh on tech: ASX closes 0.1% higher

The Australian sharemarket finished Monday’s session a touch higher after easing its gains in the late afternoon.

Across the sectors, materials led the pack while technology weighed the most. Financials, utilities and consumer staples were in the winner’s corner while the remaining sectors joined tech in the red, including consumer discretionary and real estate.

BHP (ASX:BHP) led the heavyweight miners, closing 2.3 per cent higher at $50.92. Westpac (ASX:WBC) led the major banks, up 1.2 per cent to $24.03, while Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA) shed the least, up 0.2 per cent to $106.14.

Gold stocks were mixed. Northern Star (ASX:NST) finished flat at $10.78, Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) lifted 0.2 per cent to $26.96 and Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) closed 2.4 per cent lower at $4.43.

Energy stocks were also mixed. Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) fell 1.3 per cent to $33.16, Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) rose 0.6 per cent to $1.64 and Santos (ASX:STO) closed flat at $7.94.

Meanwhile, payment platform Xero (ASX:XRO) led tech’s decline. Shares closed 4.9 per cent lower at $99.35. Afterpay owner Block (ASX:SQ2) also fell 3.7 per cent to $171.45.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.1 per cent or 6 points higher at 7,412.

Stocks we were watching today

Amid news of Macquarie Group’s (ASX:MQG) US$12.7 billion deal to buy a 60 per cent stake in a UK gas unit, shares closed 1.1 per cent higher at $200.09.

On the news of Guinea’s government, Rio (ASX:RIO) plus Simandou inking a 35-year infrastructure deal, 2-weeks after the mining operations were interrupted amid a broker upgrade, shares closed 1.4 per cent higher at $118.47.

UBS upgraded Rio Tinto’s rating to neutral from a sell with a hike in the price target to $104 from $90. The disruption of iron ore and steel exports from Ukraine and Russia, combined with stronger-than-expected data from China in Jan to Feb with the prospect of further easing to achieve the net present cost’s ambitious growth target, improves the risk versus reward for the iron ore price over the next 12 months and in turn for Rio Tinto.

Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) also received an upgrade to neutral from UBS on better iron ore outlook with a price target of $17.10 from $16.13. Shares closed 0.8 per cent higher at $19.42.

Fund manager T. Rowe is set to replace Scentre Group (ASX:SCG) with a German real estate company. Shares closed 1 per cent lower at $3.08.

Company news

St Barbara’s (ASX:SBM) production guidance for the 2022 financial year was cut after a Covid outbreak affected its ability to ramp up operations at its Simberi operation. Shares closed 3 per cent lower to $1.48.

Qube (ASX:QUB) sold its option to buy land at Beveridge, north of Melbourne, for the development of a rail freight terminal to National Intermodal Corporation (Commonwealth Government Business Enterprise). Shares closed 0.3 per cent lower at $3.08.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank (ASX:BEN) appointed Andrew Morgan from Colonial First State as its new chief financial officer (CFO) for Bendigo. Shares closed 0.6 per cent higher at $10.20.

Star Entertainment’s (ASX:SGR) managing director and chief executive officer Matt Bekier has tendered his resignation amid a review of the company’s operations. Shares closed 0.3 per cent higher at $3.24.

AMP (ASX:AMP) completed the sale of its Global Equities and Fixed Income business to Macquarie Asset Management (MAM) for $63 million. Shares closed 0.5 per cent higher at $0.96.

Carnarvon Energy (ASX:CVN) announced a $70 million institutional placement to help finance the Dorado development and progress its growth opportunities. Shares closed flat at $0.33, and are in a trading halt. 

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a fall of 98 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a fall of 14 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a fall of 56 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 4 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 Information Technology, down 2.7 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was AVZ Minerals (ASX:AVZ), closing almost 4 per cent higher at $1.19. It was followed by shares in Washington H Soul Pattinson (ASX:SOL) and Costa Group Holdings (ASX:CGC).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Paladin Energy (ASX:PDN), closing 6 per cent lower at $0.78. It was followed by shares in Xero (ASX:XRO) and Chalice Mining (ASX:CHN).

Asian markets

Japan’s Nikkei has lost 0.5 per cent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has gained 1.4 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has lost 0.1 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1941.93 an ounce.
Iron ore is 3.0 per cent higher at US$150.80 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 5.5 per cent.
Light crude is trading $3.72 lower at US$110.18 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 75.26 US cents.