Miners push ASX higher while Asian stocks fall: Local bourse flat at noon

The Australian sharemarket has been choppy throughout the morning as we look to close off second last trading day of the year. Thin volumes have attributed to the movements which saw the local bourse lift mildly at the opening bell to then sharply slip before staging a recovery, then taking a U-turn towards midday.

The moves follow Wall St’s mixed close after local traders were greeted with the S&P 500 eking out its 70th record high for the year, while the Dow Jones rallied for its sixth day, its longest winning streak since March this year.

Eight of the 11 sectors are trading lower led by declines in utilities, property, and information technology while materials are leading the gains followed by communication services, and financials.

ANZ Bank (ASX:ANZ) has retreated after leading the pack yesterday, down 0.4 per cent, Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA), and Westpac (ASX:WBC) are up 0.2 per cent each, while National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) is hugging the flat line.

The iron ore miners are mixed with Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) trading 0.2 per cent lower wiping out yesterday’s gains. BHP (ASX:BHP) is the best performer gaining 1.5 per cent after its flat finish yesterday while Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) is trading 1.1 per cent higher.

Oil players are in a mixed mood also with Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) trading 0.4 per cent lower while Santos (ASX:STO) is bucking the trend, adding 0.2 per cent.

Gold miners are in the red after the price of precious metal softened with Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) trading 1.4 per cent lower while Northern Star (ASX:NST) is trading 0.8 per cent lower.

Elsewhere, Afterpay (ASX:APT) is trading 2.7 per cent lower while Zip Co (ASX:Z1P) is down 2.2 per cent, taking lead from Wall St with the Nasdaq as the underperformer amid the surge in US 10-year treasury bond yield.

There are some green shoots with biotech CSL (ASX:CSL) trading 0.7 per cent higher.

However, traders were prepared given the sheer number of companies trading ex-dividend. The buffet of almost 50 companies are trading the difference of their dividend payment exacerbating weakness on the local bourse.

With no economic news to spur any meaningful movements, attention wavered between Asian markets, red US equity futures, and light company news coming through.

Billionaire Andrew Forrest splurged over $108 million to increase his stake in Bega Cheese (ASX:BGA) to 6.6 per cent. His holding company, Tattarang AgriFood Investments snapped up more than 20 million shares in a three-week period from the start of November. Shares are trading 2.4 per cent higher at $5.46.

Sandfire Resources (ASX:SFR) has received the nod from the Spanish competition authorities on its $2.6 billion takeover of a copper mining complex, MATSA. The competition authorities waved through its two approvals with the transaction to complete by the end of January next year. Shares are trading 1.2 per cent higher at $667.

Meanwhile, science and device company Trajan Group (ASX:TRJ) celebrated the completion of its acquisition of California-based Neoteryx, a leader in blood micro sampling devices. Shares are trading 0.5 per cent lower at $3.95.

Covid-19 headlines continue to pour with hospitalisations in NSW climbing as the state records 12,226 new Covid-19 cases and one death while Victoria records 5,137 new cases, and 13 deaths. Travel stocks are trading lower by as much as 0.8 per cent with Flight Centre (ASX:FLT) leading the declines. Qantas (ASX:QAN) has shed 0.2 per cent.

Asian markets are in negative territory with Japanese shares weighing on the region. Chinese officials continue to back its Covid-Zero strategy as they get a grip on the outbreak in the western city of Xi’an where 13 million people are in lockdown. 

At noon, the S&P/ASX 200 is 0.01 per cent or 0.80 points higher at 7510.60. The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 17 points.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector is materials adding 0.6 per cent while the worst-performing sector is utilities, down 1.4 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Life360 Inc. (ASX:360) trading 4.1 per cent higher at $9.94, followed by shares in Bega Cheese (ASX:BGA), and Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Imugene (ASX:IMU trading 4.6 per cent lower at $0.42, followed by shares in IDP Education (ASX:IEL), and Paladin Energy (ASX:PDN).

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1803.13 an ounce.
Iron ore is 0.3 per cent higher at US$118.05 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 1.96 per cent.
One Australian dollar is buying 72.54 US cents.