Fortescue leads while lithium miners tumble: ASX closes 0.3% higher

The Australian sharemarket held on to its gains in the afternoon session despite a big drop in lithium miners. Communication services led the pack up nearly 2 per cent, followed by financials and industrials. On the down side, utilities tumbled over 5 per cent after Origin withdrew its 2023 guidance amid current market volatility across commodity markets. The fall was followed by technology and materials.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.3 per cent or 23 points higher at 7,234.

The best performer in the ASX/200 was Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG), leading iron ore miners up 3.2 per cent to $20.76. This was followed by Telstra Corporation (ASX:TLS), up over 3 per cent to $4.00, and TPG Telecom (ASX:TPG), up 3 per cent to $5.92.

The three worst performers in the ASX/200 were lithium stocks. Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) tumbled 22 per cent to $2.30, Liontown Resources (ASX:LTR) fell 18.4 per cent to $1.16 and Allkem (ASX:AKE) closed 15.8 per cent lower at $11.54.

The fall in lithium miners came after Argentine customs set a reference price of $53 a kilogram on exports after detecting irregularities with shipments.

Energy stocks were mixed on reports OPEC may exempt Russia from its supply pact and the European Union’s Russian oil imports embargo. Woodside Energy (ASX:WDS) rose 1.4 per cent to $30.19, while Santos (ASX:STO) closed flat at $8.20 following a new supply agreement with Yara Pilbara Fertilisers.

Origin Energy (ASX:ORG) dropped 13.7 per cent to $5.91 after its announcement while gold stocks also weighed. Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) was down nearly 4 per cent to $3.69, Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) fell 2.7 per cent to $24.37 and Northern Star (ASX:NST) closed 2.6 per cent lower at $8.72.

As we can see, it was a mixed day for resource stocks.

Meanwhile, Commonwealth (ASX:CBA) led major banks up 2.3 per cent to $106.71, while NAB (ASX:NAB) added the least, up 0.9 per cent to $31.55 after completing the acquisition of Citigroup’s Australian consumer business.

Local economic news – Australian Bureau of Statistics

The Australian economy rose 0.8 per cent in the March quarter versus a rise of 3.6 per cent in the December quarter.

In contrast to previous Covid-19 strains, ABS said there was continued growth in economic activity through the peak of the omicron outbreak. However, severe weather in NSW, Queensland and South Australia during the quarter affected supply chains and dampened activity in some industries.

Household and government spending drove growth in the quarter, while the household saving to income ratio fell from 13.4 per cent to 11.4 per cent as the increase in household spending outpaced growth in household income.

The economy grew 3.3 per cent year-on-year.

Company news

Darren Smith will take over Doug Cubbin as chief financial officer of Telix Pharmaceuticals (ASX:TLX). Shares closed 7.7 per cent lower at $4.30.

Mesoblast (ASX:MSB) posted a 5 per cent increase in revenue in the March quarter, and a 49 per cent increase over the nine months to March 31. Shares closed 2.5 per cent lower at 96 cents.

Greenvale Mining (ASX:GRV) is set to acquire an initial 51 per cent stake in geothermal energy company Within Energy. Shares closed 8.6 per cent higher at 19 cents.

South32 (ASX:S32) completed the acquisition of an additional 16.6 per cent stake in Mozal Aluminium from MCA Metals. Shares closed 0.8 per cent lower at $4.96.

Australian Rare Earths (ASX:AR3) received $8.1 million of firm commitments for a placement of new shares at $0.44 per share to institutional investors. Shares closed 9.8 per cent lower at 42 cents.

Navarre Minerals (ASX:NML) is raising $4.5 million via a placement and up to an additional $5 million via a share purchase plan to accelerate drilling at the Mt Carlton operation. Shares closed nearly 14 per cent lower at $0.068.

Washington H. Soul Pattinson (ASX:SOL) purchased 100 per cent of engineering business Ampcontrol, after being a major shareholder since 2005. Shares closed 1 per cent lower at $25.45.

Boss Energy (ASX:BOE) made a final investment decision to develop the Honeymoon Uranium Project in South Australia.

Washington H. Soul Pattinson (ASX:SOL) purchased 100 per cent of engineering business Ampcontrol, after being a major shareholder since 2005. Shares closed 6 per cent lower at $2.28.

Auckland Airport (ASX:AIA) announced changes to its senior leadership team with the creation of new positions .

DUG Technology (ASX:DUG) extended its primary banking facilities with Commonwealth Bank by two years to 1 July 2024. Shares closed 8.5 per cent higher at 51 cents.

IOU Pay (ASX:IOU) provided a mid June quarter update, which saw BNPL volumes increase 15 per cent versus the previous half quarter period. Shares closed over 17 per cent lower at $0.068.

Close the Loop (ASX:CLG) upgraded its FY22 revenue by 11 per cent, with a current annual revenue run rate of over $100 million. Shares closed over 26 per cent higher at 47 cents.

PointsBet (ASX:PBH) announced changes to its global leadership team including transition of president, product and technology and appointment of chief technology officer. Shares closed 12.3 per cent lower at $2.60.

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 89 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 2 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a fall of 20 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 11 points when the market next opens.

Asian markets

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has lost 0.8 per cent.
Japan’s Nikkei has gained 0.6 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has lost 0.4 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1834.18 an ounce.
Iron ore is 0.1 per cent lower at US$136.50 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 0.94 per cent.
Light crude is trading $0.56 higher at US$115.23 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 71.70 US cents.