Tech stocks drag, Corporate Travel in $175m deal: ASX down 0.6% at noon

The Australian sharemarket is in negative territory this morning amid another surge in Covid-19 cases. At noon, the S&P/ASX 200 is 0.6 per cent or 43.5 points lower at 7334.9. The SPI futures are pointing to a fall of 48 points.

All sectors are in the red. Technology is the lowest, down 2.2 per cent, followed by communication services, down 1.3 per cent, and real estate, down 1.1 per cent. The sector with the fewest losses is energy, down 0.1 per cent. 

Tech stocks are weighing on the market, following Nasdaq lower. Afterpay (ASX:APT) is down 2.6 per cent, Altium (ASX:ALU) is down 3.9 per cent and Megaport (ASX:MP1) is down 4.3 per cent.

Health stocks are also lower, led by Mesoblast (ASX:MSB) continuing yesterday’s weak performance, down 5.7 per cent. ResMed (ASX:RMD) is down 3.1 per cent and Pro Medcius (ASX:PME) is down 3.3 per cent.

Despite heavyweight miners like Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) lifting higher, the materials sector has been weighed down by gold miners, with Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) down 3.6 per cent. 

Pointset (ASX:PBH) is down 4.9 per cent despite having no official company news and Blackmores (SX:BKL) is down 3.4 per cent following the transition of a new chief financial officer. 

In company news, asset manager Challenger (ASX:CGF) is up 1.4 per cent following the appointment off its new chief executive officer.
 
Local economic news

Melbourne institute released its monthly consumer confidence report for December. Consumer sentiment fell 1 per cent to 104.3 in December from 105.3 in November.

There was a clear difference in responses between the states hit hardest by recent Delta outbreaks and the rest of Australia. Both NSW and Victoria posted significant falls, down 3.6 and 3.5 per cent, while sentiment was up 3.4 per cent in Queensland, WA was up 3.2 per cent and and SA was up 7.1 per cent.

NSW has recorded its highest number of new Covid-19 cases since September 11, with 1,360 cases. 

Company news

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MA Financial (ASX:MAF) is set to acquire BNK Banking’s mortgage business, Finsure for $145 million.

Annuities business Challenger (ASX:CGF) has appointed Nick Hamilton as managing director and CEO, replacing Richard Howes.

Corporate Travel (ASX:CTD) is set to acquire Helloworld’s corporate travel business with an enterprise value offer of $175 million. 

Best and worst performers

All sectors are in the red. The sector with the fewest losses is Energy, down 0.1 per cent. The worst-performing sector is Information Technology, down 2.2 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Virgin Money UK (ASX:VUK), trading 2.7 per cent higher at $3.04. It is followed by shares in Alumina (ASX:AWC) and Platinum Asset Management (ASX:PTM).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Mesoblast (ASX:MSB), trading 5.7 per cent lower at $1.32. It is followed by shares in Chalice Mining (ASX:CHN) and Pinnacle Investment (ASX:PNI).

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1772.49 an ounce.
Iron ore is flat at US$110.20 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a fall of 0.6 per cent.
One Australian dollar is buying 71.08 US cents.