Materials lead, CEO resigns from Star: ASX up 0.5% at noon

Starting the week off on a positive note, the Australian sharemarket has opened higher thanks to a boost in miners while tech stocks weigh.

Across the sectors, materials are out in front while technology is named the worst performer. Utilities, financials and consumer staples are in the winner’s corner while health care, communication services and consumer discretionary are sitting in the red.

BHP (ASX:BHP) is leading major miners, trading 2.3 per cent higher at $50.90. BHP shareholders are set to receive $2.08 per share fully franked interim today.

Major banks are higher, led by National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) up 1.3 per cent to $32.06 and Westpac (ASX:WBC) up 0.8 per cent to $23.93. Shedding the least is Macquarie Group (ASX:MQG) down 0.4 per cent to $198.64.

Energy stocks are edging higher, led by Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) up 0.3 per cent to $1.64. Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) is up 0.1 per cent to $33.61 and Santos (ASX:STO) is up 0.1 per cent to $7.95.

Gold stocks are mixed with Northern Star (ASX:NST) up 0.3 per cent to $10.81, and Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) down 1.1 per cent to $4.49.

Meanwhile, Xero (ASX:XRO) is leading tech’s decline, down 3.9 per cent to $100.30. This is followed by Afterpay owner Block (ASX:SQ2) down 3.8 per cent to $171.29.

At noon, the S&P/ASX 200 is 0.5 per cent or 35.7 points higher at 7441.9.

The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 26 points.

Stocks we are watching

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 are trading 0.4 per cent higher at $198.64.

On 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 are trading 1.9 per cent higher at $119.12.

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 are trading 1.7 per cent higher at $19.60.

Fund manager T. Rowe is set to replace Scentre Group (ASX:SCG) with a German real estate company. Shares are trading flat at $3.11.

Company news

St Barbara’s (ASX:SBM) production guidance for the 2022 financial year has been cut after a Covid outbreak affected its ability to ramp up operations at its Simberi operation. Shares are trading 1.8 per cent lower at $1.49.

Qube (ASX:QUB) has 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 are trading flat at $3.09.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank (ASX:BEN) has appointed Andrew Morgan from Colonial First State as its new chief financial officer (CFO) for Bendigo. Shares are trading 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 are trading 0.6 per cent lower at $3.21.

AMP (ASX:AMP) has completed the sale of its Global Equities and Fixed Income business to Macquarie Asset Management (MAM) for $63 million. Shares are trading 0.5 per cent higher at $0.95.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector is materials, up 1.6 per cent. The worst-performing sector is information technology, down 2.1 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Lynas Rare Earths (ASX:LYC), trading 4.4 per cent higher at $10.79. It is followed by shares in Costa Group Holdings (ASX:CGC) and Incitec Pivot (ASX:IPL).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Xero (ASX:XRO), trading 3.9 per cent lower at $100.30. It is followed by shares in Block (ASX:SQ2) and PointsBet Holdings (ASX:PBH).

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1958.10 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 2.70 per cent.
One Australian dollar is buying 75.06 US cents.