The Australian sharemarket managed to eke out a gain to post a third straight close ahead of Russia’s stock exchange set to open shortly after a month-long shutdown.
The local bourse’s erratic performance was dragged higher by energy stocks after crude prices rallied overnight while materials lifted 1 per cent. Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) rose 2.8 per cent to $33.20, Santos (ASX:STO) gained 1.5 per cent to $7.89, while Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) closed 0.6 per cent higher to $1.61.
Supporting the miners was the lift in the iron ore price which helped BHP (ASX:BHP) gained 1.8 per cent to $49.30, Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) rose 2.1 per cent to $116.01, while Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) bucked the trend, closing 0.3 per cent lower at $18.94.
However, as investors continue to search for safety on renewed inflation fears, gold stocks were in favour, the Aussie treasury rout was on hold and utilities stocks outperformed, rallying 2.6 per cent. Origin Energy (ASX:ORG) surged 3 per cent to $6.29.
The biggest loser was information tech, down 0.8 per cent, followed by healthcare, down 0.6 per cent and financials, closing 0.4 per cent lower.
Downward pressure in the healthcare sector by Resmed (ASX:RMD) weighed on the sector amid several broker downgrades. Macquarie trimmed its price target to $37.50 from $38.80 maintaining its outperform rating after a conference call with the sleep treatment giant. The broker’s raised forecast from Philips’ recall has been offset with concerns around component shortages. Shares are trading 4 per cent lower to $32.07.
While shares in Mesoblast (ASX:MSB) jumped on optimism after the appointment of Dr Philip Krause joining the board. Dr. Krause was the deputy director of Office of Vaccines Research and Review at the US FDA for a decade and shared responsibility for regulatory authorizations of Covid-19 vaccines in the US. Shares jumped 3.2 per cent to $1.14.
From the list of stocks that we were watching, amid a broker upgrade from Barrenjoey, AGL Energy (ASX:AGL) is trading 2.3 per cent higher to $7.44 while Origin Energy (ASX:ORG) is up 1.2 per cent to $6.18.
Nickel Mines’ (ASX:NIC) share price is trading 1.1 per cent lower after investors digested Moody’s revised rating outlook to negative from stable, reflecting the increased risk and uncertainty for the company’s ongoing credit profile, given the recent issues facing its sole offtaker, Tsingshan..
Uniti Group (ASX:UWL) is combing through an offer from Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets and Public Sector Pension Investment Board to takeover the the company for $5 a share. Shares resumed trade after it soared almost 11 per cent before going into a trading halt. Shares were up 0.5 per cent earlier in the session but lost seam, closing 0.6 per cent lower to $4.64.
In European markets, the ruble has staged its best one-day gain in years after Russian President Vladimir Putin pressed on plans for countries to use the local currency for natural gas purchases. While several measures are in place to limit a renewed selloff on the Russian share market when it resumes for a shortened four-hour session.
Only 33 stocks will be open to trade which include the nation’s biggest companies like Gazprom PJSC, and Sberbank PJSC. Foreigners are prohibited to sell equities in a ban scheduled to last until April 1 with short selling off the table.
At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.1 per cent or 9.20 points higher at 7387.10.
The manufacturing sector continued to grow in March at a faster pace, according to the S&P Global. The manufacturing PMI score came in at 57.3 from 57.0 in February. Any figures above 50 indicate expansion. The survey also showed that the services PMI climbed to 57.9 from 57.4 and the composite PMI improved to 57.1 from 56.6.
Crown Resorts (ASX:CWN) has been deemed unsuitable to hold a gaming licence for its Perth casino however it will be allowed to continue operating. The findings come from the final report of the Perth Casino Royal Commission into Crown Perth which has been headed by the Western Australian royal commission. Shares closed 0.2 per cent lower to $12.50.
National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) has popped a dual announcement on share buy-backs. On completing the $2.5 billion buy-back unveiled last July, the nation’s third largest bank has launched another buy-back worth $2.5 billion, subject to market conditions. The new round is set to start, following the bank’s half year results on 5 May. Shares closed 0.2 per cent higher at $31.79.
A 12 per cent increase on Washington H. Soul Pattinson (ASX:SOL)’s interim fully-franked dividend of 29 cents per share has been attributed to merger with Milton. Despite first half earnings plunging to a loss of $643.1 million, attributable to a one-off goodwill impairment of $954 million due to the merger, excluding this transaction, the company’s regular profit after tax surged 281 per cent to $343.7 million. Its revenue came in higher by 117 per cent to $1.28 billion compared to $589 million in the same period last year. Shares closed 1.3 per cent higher to $27.
Meanwhile, the nation’s largest brickmaking giant Brickworks (ASX:BKW) benefited from improved production efficiencies and price hikes despite the supply chain woes in a high inflationary environment. The company unveiled its record statutory half-year of $581 million in net after-tax profits for six months to the end of January, up 720 per cent from the prior corresponding period. The result was boosted by a significant one-off profit in relation to the deemed disposal of Washington H Soul Pattinson (ASX:SOL) shares upon its merger with Milton during the half. A fully franked interim dividend of 22 cents per share, an increase of 1 cent from the prior period, is set to be paid on 3 May. Shares lept 5 per cent to $22.87.
JB Hi-Fi’s (ASX:JBH) financial year 2022 year-to-date sales growth for Australia is at 1.5 per cent, 1 per cent for The Good Guys, however its New Zealand operations are behind by 2.5 per cent. On a quarterly basis, its third quarter results reflect heightened customer demand amid a $250 million off-market buyback. For the third quarter, Aussie operations rose 10.5 per cent, the Good Guys business was up 5.1 per cent, while its Kiwi operations were tracking higher by 2.9 per cent. As customer demand grew alongside disciplined cost control and stock availability, this has boosted its performance for the period. Shares surged 4.3 per cent to $52.90.
The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 71.00 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 15.75 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a rise of 68.75 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a fall of 3 points when the market next opens.
Best and worst performers
The best-performing sector was utilities, up 2.6 per cent. The worst-performing sector was information technology, down 0.8 per cent.
The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was AVZ Minerals (ASX:AVZ), closing 7.3 per cent higher at $1.10. It was followed by shares in Whitehaven Coal (ASX:WHC) and Brickworks (ASX:BKW).
The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Telix Pharmaceutical (ASX:TLX), closing 7.4 per cent lower at $4.74. It was followed by shares in Zip Co (ASX:Z1P) and City Chic Collective (ASX:CCX).
Japan’s Nikkei has lost 0.1 per cent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has lost 0.4 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has lost 0.8 per cent.
Commodities and the dollar
Gold is trading at US$1940.61 an ounce.
Iron ore is 2.1 per cent higher at US$146.45 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 3.21 per cent.
Light crude is trading $0.39 lower at US$114.54 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 74.87 US cents.