Santa rally lifts ASX to 4-mth peak closing 1.2% higher

The Australian sharemarket climbed to a four month high and extended its gains for the fifth day led by a rise in every sector thanks to gains in miners and banks. Traders returned back from the Christmas break after a strong start on Wall St to then pass the baton to the local bourse after closing mixed for its second session this week.

In a rally where traders have crossed their fingers and toes for the Santa ride to continue, Omicron woes are accelerating. However, offsetting concerns are the nods from the US FDA for the anti-viral Covid-19 pills from Pfizer and Merck plus the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cutting isolation time for people with Covid-19 from 10 days to five.

Technology shares led the drag on Wall St with the same flavour transcending through Asian markets with the Japan Nikkei giving back its gains, while the Hong Kong Hang Seng is trading lower as China’s local coronavirus cases continue to climb in Xian where 13 million people are under lockdown.

Amid this, a sell down in US-Chinese listed stocks are dampening investor’s optimism triggered by the boost in liquidity from the People’s Bank of China’s in an effort to stabilise the economy amid a property sector crunch.

Iron ore giants closed mixed after a strong performance earlier in the session. Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) was trading over 1 per cent higher though didn’t manage to keep its gains to close 0.2 per cent higher, BHP (ASX:BHP) eked out a 0.02 per cent gain while Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) shed 0.3 per cent. Whitehaven Coal (ASX:WHC) was the worst performer of the session closing 2.2 per cent lower. 

On the local bourse consumer staples led the gains adding 2 per cent as Graincorp (ASX:GNC) rose 5.1 per cent at $8.25 lifting the sector higher. Property added 1.8 per cent, followed by utilities and consumer discretionary both adding 1.4 per cent. Healthcare added the least, up 0.5 per cent.

Oil players had a vibrant session with Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) adding 1.9 per cent, while Santos (ASX:STO) closed 0.3 per cent higher.

The major lenders rallied to close at session highs with ANZ Bank (ASX:ANZ) leading the pack adding 1.5 per cent, Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA) adding 1.3 per cent, National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) crawled from its 0.7 per cent gain to close 1.3 per cent higher, and Westpac (ASX:WBC) added 1.2 per cent.

Investors now look to Asian markets set to close lower while European markets are slated to open mixed. US futures are pointing to a rosy start with the Dow slated to extend its rally for the sixth straight day while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq set to make a mild comeback after its retreat.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 1.2 per cent or 90 points higher at 7,510.

Company news

Tyro Payments’ (ASX:TYR) transaction value for the month to date is 36 per cent higher over the same period of financial 2021, as of the last transaction processed on 24 December. The payments provider has committed to provide weekly updates to the release of its full-year results. The company has processed $3.013 billion this time, against $2.214 billion in the same month to date of December last year. Shares closed 0.7 per cent higher at $2.81.

Elsewhere, Select Harvests (ASX:SHV) jumped 2.4 per cent higher to $6.06 after reporting a fire which is now contained at its waste facility in north-west Victoria. The almond grower intends to submit a claim under its relevant policies for the entirety of its property and related business interruption. It expects almond receiving and processing will still proceed when the harvest begins in February next year.

National real estate company The Agency Group (ASX:AU1) has appointed Geoff Lucas to the role of managing director and chief executive officer as of January 28 next year. This comes after the Board and the current managing director Paul Niardone identified recruitment and growth potential on the ease side of the nation, and with that, saw the importance for the managing director to be situated accordingly. Mr Niardone, located in Western Australia has been appointed as executive director and will focus on the expansion of the financial services division and property tech opportunities. Shares are trading 2.1 per cent higher at $0.05.

In another management shake up, John Karantzis is set to step down as the managing director of iSignthis (ASX:ISX) but will remain as a non-executive director amid his relocation to Cyprus, while Tim Hart will be the executive chairman on an interim basis. Mr Karantzis will focus on the European side of the business which was demerged. ISignthis shares have been suspended since 2019.

Software communications platform designer Whispir (ASX:WSP) is set to embark on a three year deal with Singapore telco giant Singtel. The $1.3 million deal enables Whispir to upgrade Singtel’s SMS alerts systems while enhancing other communications services like WhatsApp for internal users. Shares closed 6.3 per cent higher at $2.03.

Michael Hill (ASX:MHJ) trading update flagged to investors that the retail jewellery group expects to see earnings before interest and taxes to come in higher than the $44.6 million in the previous corresponding period in financial year 2021. Shares soared 22 per cent at $1.38.

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 14 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 5 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a rise of 52 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 86 points when the market next opens.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Consumer Staples, up 1.96 per cent. The sector with the fewest gains was Health Care, up 0.5 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Chalice Mining (ASX:CHN), closing 7.8 per cent higher at $9.41. It was followed by shares in Liontown Resources (ASX:LTR) and Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Whitehaven Coal (ASX:WHC), closing 2.2 per cent lower at $2.67. It was followed by shares in Afterpay (ASX:APT) and SkyCity Entertainment Grp (ASX:SKC).

Asian markets

Japan’s Nikkei has lost 0.7 per cent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has lost 0.9 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has lost 0.7 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1806.94 an ounce.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a fall of 3.4 per cent.
Light crude is trading $0.03 lower at US$75.95 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 72.28 US cents.