Mesoblast drops 16%, Woolworths & Afterpay fall: ASX down 0.2% at noon

The Australian sharemarket is edging lower this morning amid a surge in Covid-19 cases. At noon, the S&P/ASX 200 is 0.2 per cent or 14 points lower at 7365.3. The SPI futures are pointing to a fall of 19 points.

Across the sectors, 4 out of 11 are in the red. Consumer staples are weighing heavily on the market, down 4.5 per cent, followed by consumer discretionary, down 1.4 per cent. This is then followed by energy and information technology, both down 1.1 per cent. Meanwhile, real estate is lifting for a second day, up 1.3 per cent as the best performer.

Supermarket giant Woolworths (ASX:WOW) is down 8.9 per cent following a disappointing trading update that revealed Covid costs weighing heavily on earnings during the first half of FY22. Meanwhile, Coles (ASX:COL) fell 3.8 per cent and Wesfarmers (ASX:WES) fell 2.2 per cent.

Buy now, pay later provider Afterpay (ASX:APT) is down 5.1 per cent, following a chance for shareholders to vote on the Square takeover. The worst-performing stock is medicine company Mesoblast (ASX:MSB), trading 16.2 per cent lower after Novartis chose to terminate their agreement. Keep an eye out for a story this afternoon.

Travel stocks are down amid a rise in Covid-19 cases, as NSW recorded 804 new cases overnight. Flight Centre (ASX:FLT) is down 2.8 per cent, Corporate Travel Management (ASX:CTD) is down 2.1 and Qantas (ASX:QAN) is down 1.2 per cent.

Across the resources, energy stocks fell, with Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) and Ampol (ASX:ALD) down 1.2 and 1.7 per cent. Meanwhile, iron ore giants lifted, led by Fortescue (ASX:FMG) up 0.7 per cent.

In headlines, aerial imagery company Nearmap (ASX:NEA) is up 5.1 per cent after revealing strong growth in its North American annual contract value portfolio. Growthpoint Properties (ASX:GOZ) is up 2.3 per cent after upgrading its FY22 guidance.

Local economic news

ANZ and Roy Morgan is set to release their weekly consumer report.

NAB released its November business survey. Business conditions edged higher in November as the post-lockdown rebound impact waned.

Conditions rose 2 points to plus 12 index points in November, remaining above the long-run average after rebounding in the prior month. The improvement in conditions was driven by employment, which rose 5 points to plus 11 index points. Trading conditions (up 1 point) and profitability (unchanged) were largely steady.

The result was driven by a rise in the employment index as businesses re-hired staff alongside the recovery in activity, including in manufacturing and retail. However, conditions in the recreation & personal services industry – the sector most affected by lockdown. While the easing in restrictions has come in NSW and Vic, the largest gains in conditions were actually in Qld and SA.

NSW recorded a jump in daily Covid-19 cases, up 804 from the 536 reported yesterday. There were just 179 cases two weeks ago.
 
Company news

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Woolworths (ASX:WOW) reported on its first half of FY22, saying Australian Food earnings are expected to be weaker than a year ago with Covid-19 costs still weighing.

For the first time ever, Nearmap (ASX:NEA) expects the annualised contract value (ACV) of its North American portfolio to surpass the ACV of its Australia and New Zealand portfolio by the end of the month.

Growthpoint Properties (ASX:GOZ) have upgraded their FY22 guidance following an active business period.

Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) has appointed Graham Tiver from BHP as chief financial officer and executive vice president following the resignation of CFO Sherry Duhe last month.

IPO

Hydration Pharmaceuticals Company (ASX:HPC) has joined the ASX this morning. Their shares issued at $0.29, started trading at $0.29 and are currently at $0.295.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector is Real Estate Investment Trusts, up 1.3 per cent. The worst-performing sector is Consumer Staples, down 4.5 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is PolyNovo (ASX:PNV), trading 11.4 per cent higher at $1.52. It is followed by shares in Nearmap (ASX:NEA) and Charter Hall Group (ASX:CHC).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Mesoblast (ASX:MSB), trading 16.2 per cent lower at $1.43. It is followed by shares in Woolworths Group (ASX:WOW) and Afterpay (ASX:APT).

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1787.80 an ounce.
Iron ore is 7.4 per cent higher at US$110.20 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 1.52 per cent.
One Australian dollar is buying 71.18 US cents.