Healthcare leads, NAB drops on ex-div: ASX fights back, closes 0.2% higher

After a volatile session, the Australian sharemarket made a comeback in the afternoon to closed in positive territory despite a rough start to the day, and week. This came after a mixed close on Wall Street, which was also hit with three straight days of losses as investors mulled several factors ahead of the upcoming inflation print.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.2 per cent or 14 points higher at 7,065.

On the local index, sectors were mixed. Health care led the pack, up 1.7 per cent, followed by property, up 1.1 per cent, then materials, up 0.9 per cent. On the other hand, financials weighed the most, down 1.1 per cent, followed by information technology, down 0.6 per cent.

Nanosonics (ASX:NAN) led the healthcare space, up 5.4 per cent to $3.72, followed by Polynovo (ASX:PNV) up 4.7 per cent to $1.12.

Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) led heavyweight miners, up 2.6 per cent to $105.64, with Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) up 2.3 per cent to $19.55 and BHP (ASX:BHP) up 1.4 per cent to $45.66.

National Australian Bank (ASX:NAB) weighed on the financial space, down 3.9 per cent to $30.53 after trading ex-dividend today. The other major banks finished lower, except Macquarie Group (ASX:MQG), which rose 1.2 per cent to $182.12.

Afterpay giant Block (ASX:SQ2) fell 1 per cent to $121.38, while Link Administration (ASX:LNK) tumbled 15.1 per cent to $4.22 as the worst performer. Link said it’s not aware of any reason for the decline in the share price and the high trading volumes today.

Energy stocks were mixed amid concerns about short-term demand and higher costs of energy around the globe. Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) fell 0.8 per cent to $30.53, while Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) rose 2.2 per cent to $1.65 and Santos (ASX:STO) closed 0.4 per cent higher at $7.97.

Onto gold stocks, Northern Star (ASX:NST) lifted 0.1 per cent to $8.74, while Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) fell 0.8 per cent to $24.86 and Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) closed 0.3 per cent lower at $3.57.

Local economic news

Consumer sentiment tumbled 5.6 per cent in May to the lowest since August 2020 of 90.4, down for the sixth month in a row amid surging inflation and rising interest rates, according to the Westpac Melbourne Institute.

Company news

Global demand for Australian commodities and favourable planting conditions led GrainCorp (ASX:GNC) to report a record half-year result for the six months to March 31. Its profit after tax rose to $246 million from $51 million a year ago, while it confirmed FY22 profit guidance of $310 to $370 million. Graincorp said the conflict in Ukraine prompted buyers to seek alternative sources of supply, while the recent weather events also provided excellent planting conditions. An interim dividend of 24 cents per share will be paid on July 21. Shares closed 1 per cent lower at $10.46.

Pushpay (ASX:PPH) delivered a 7 per cent increase in profit after tax for the full year to March 31, while no dividend was declared. Pushpay said its priorities were impacted by a shift in software buying behaviour and consolidation of churches, as well as Covid-19 disruptions and a competitive labour market. Its revenue lifted 12 per cent from the prior year, while the company said it expects to deliver double-digit revenue growth of between 10 and 15 per cent in FY23. Shares closed 0.7 per cent lower at $1.18.

David George was named Magellan Financials’ (ASX:MFG) new chief executive officer and managing director and will start on August 8. For the last 14 years, David was deputy chief investment officer for Public Markets at the Future Fund. Kirsten Morton will become chief operating officer and chief financial officer for Magellan, after filling the CEO role on an interim basis during the global search. Shares closed 0.8 per cent higher at $15.99.

CSR (ASX:CSR) reported a rise in revenue and profit for the year ending March 31, driven by growth in building products and improved aluminium pricing. The industrial company’s trading revenue of $2.3 billion rose 9 per cent from the prior year. Shares closed 0.5 per cent higher at $5.72.

Financial lender Money3 (ASX:MNY) announced that it’s implementing an on-market share buyback of up to $15 million as part of its capital management strategy. Shares closed 6.7 per cent higher at $2.38.

Aerial imaging company Nearmap (ASX:NEA) filed an additional inter partes review (IPR) against a patent of rivals EagleView and Pictometry that EagleView asserted in the litigation it lodged against Nearmap. Shares closed 1.3 per cent lower at $1.18.

ID checking business RapidID is set to undertake identity and working rights checks for supermarket giant Coles (ASX:COL). RapidID’s technology will enable Coles to streamline its recruitment process and assess whether applicants have the necessary rights to work in Australia. Shares closed flat at $18.60.

What else was on watch today?

GPT Group (ASX:GPT) held its annual meeting scheduled, shares closed 2.4 per cent higher at $4.80.

Amid the biotech M&A news on Wall St where Biohaven Pharmaceutical soared 68.4 per cent after inking a deal with Pfizer valued at US$11.6 billion: Shares in Antisense Therapeutics (ASX:ANP) closed flat at $0.10, shares in Kazia Therapeutics (ASX:KZA) fell 6.3 per cent to $0.75, and shares in Immutep (ASX:IMM) closed 4.4 per cent higher at $0.36.

There were several broker downgrades listed by companies, Altium (ASX:ALU) cut to neutral from positive at Evans & Partners, with shares up 1.2 per cent to $30.24, Healius (ASX:HLS) cut to neutral vs outperform at Credit Suisse, with shares down 4.1 per cent to $4.03, and Pendal group (ASX:PDL) cut to neutral vs outperform at Credit Suisse, with shares down 2.6 per cent to $5.19.

AGL Energy’s (ASX:AGL) chief executive Graeme Hunt said its largest investor, Mike Cannon-Brookes, may be plotting a third takeover attempt for the power giant and that shareholders are confused about the billionaire’s intentions, according to The Australian. Shares closed 0.4 per cent lower at $8.17.

Shareholders of the Star Entertainment (ASX:SGR) are understood to have made approaches to prospective suitors of the casino operator, offering up their shares in what some believe is a sign that the company is a takeover target, according to The Australian. Shares closed 1.4 per cent higher at $2.99.

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 59 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 13 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a rise of 86 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 19 points when the market next opens.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Health Care, up 1.7 per cent. The worst-performing sector was Financials, down 1.1 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Lifestyle Communities (ASX:LIC), closing 15.1 per cent higher at $13.96. It was followed by shares in City Chic Collective (ASX:CCX) and Life360 (ASX:360).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Link Administration Holdings (ASX:LNK), closing 15.1 per cent lower at $4.22. It was followed by shares in Chalice Mining (ASX:CHN) and Healius (ASX:HLS).

Asian markets

Japan’s Nikkei has gained 0.3 per cent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has gained 1.6 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has gained 1.5 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1839.76 an ounce.
Iron ore is 2.5 per cent lower at US$128.10 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 5.8 per cent.
Light crude is trading $2.32 higher at US$93.27 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 69.63 US cents.