Tech stocks rally, Banks lift, Energy drags: ASX closes 0.7% higher

The Australian sharemarket held its gains in the afternoon and finished Wednesday’s session in positive territory thanks to a boost in tech stocks. Following the release of the Federal Budget last night, most sectors closed higher across the local bourse.

Technology was by far the best sector, while energy and materials were the only two sectors to close lower. In the winner’s corner were health care, industrials and consumer discretionary.

Tech stocks rallied with the top performer Life360 (ASX:360) up 9.6 per cent to $5.92. This was followed by software giant Megaport (ASX:MP1) up 6.8 per cent to $14.10 and Afterpay owner Block (ASX:SQ2) up 6.1 per cent to $194.37.

Major banks finished higher, led by Macquarie (ASX:MQG) up 2.1 per cent to $207.09. Westpac (ASX:WBC) added 0.9 per cent to $24.51, NAB (ASX:NAB) rose 0.8 per cent to $32.37, Commonwealth (ASX:CBA) lifted 0.7 per cent to $107.07 and ANZ (ASX:ANZ) closed flat at $27.88.

Heavyweight miners BHP (ASX:BHP) and Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) both finished flat, while Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) rose 1.6 per cent to $19.80 following a media clarification released today regarding Fortescue Future Industries signing a memorandum of understanding with E.ON.

Energy stocks closed lower, led by Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) down 0.9 per cent to $1.59. Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) fell 0.8 per cent to $32.54 and Santos (ASX:STO) closed 0.6 per cent lower at $7.87.

Gold stocks were mixed. Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) was flat at $26.88, Northern Star (ASX:NST) fell 0.5 per cent to$10.74 and Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) closed 0.7 per cent lower at $4.38.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.7 per cent or 50 points higher at 7,515.

Stocks we were watching today

The federal government pledged $60 million to bring back international visitors. Flight Centre (ASX:FLT) closed 1.1 per cent higher at $20.14 and Corporate Travel (ASX:CTD) closed 1.6 per cent higher at $24.25.

Amid the government’s commitment to helping couples with pregnancy, Healius (ASX:HLS) closed 0.7 per cent higher at $4.43 and Virtus Health (ASX:VRT) closed 0.6 per cent lower at $8.05.

Vicky Brady was named as CEO for Telstra (ASX:TLS), replacing Andrew Penn who served in the role for more than seven years. Shares closed 0.8 per cent lower at $3.90.

JP Morgan cut Uniti Group (ASX:UWL) to neutral with a boosted price target of $5. Shares closed 1.1 per cent higher at $4.69.

Bell Potter cut Gold Road Resources (ASX:GOR) rating to a hold from buy, and raised its target price to $1.70. Shares closed flat at $1.66.

Company news

The partnership comprising Charter Hall (ASX:CHC) and Dutch pension fund PGGM are set to acquire Irongate for $1.90 per security with Irongate security holders entitled to retain the dividend for the period ending March 31. The deal will see Charter Hall retain a 12 per cent stake, with Dutch pension fund PGGM owning the remaining 88 per cent. Shares closed 1.2 per cent higher at $16.40.

Eagers Automotive (ASX:APE) have been in talks with WFM Motors to acquire a portfolio of dealerships in Canberra, ACT for around $205 million. The auto-parts retailer said the dealerships operate across 10 owned properties and three commercially leased sites, with an annual turnover of around $450 million. Shares closed 2.2 per cent higher at $14.40.

Sandfire Resources (ASX:SFR) appointed independent non-executive director John Richards as non-executive chair, effective from today. Mr Richards will take over Derek La Ferla, who has served as the non-executive chairman of Sandfire since May 2010. Shares closed 0.4 per cent lower at $5.73.

The Star Entertainment (ASX:SGR) was served by Slater & Gordon with a statement of claim for a securities class action in the Supreme Court of Victoria. Star said the claim alleges that its company failed to comply with continuous disclosure requirements and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct between 2016 and 2022. Shares closed 2 per cent lower at $1.20.

Johns Lyng Group (ASX:JLG) will lead the NSW flood recovery after going into a contract with the NSW Government. As part of the government’s recovery response to the February and March flooding, Johns Lyng will be the managing contractor and will work closely with the NSW Government over the coming weeks to roll out this program to flood-impacted communities. Shares closed 1.3 per cent higher at $8.68.  

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a fall of 35 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a fall of 5 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a fall of 14 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 37 points when the market next opens.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Information Technology, up 3.8 per cent. The worst-performing sector was Energy, down 0.8 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Life360 (ASX:360), closing 9.6 per cent higher at $5.92. It was followed by shares in Magellan Financial Group (ASX:MFG) and Megaport (ASX:MP1).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Telix Pharmaceutical (ASX:TLX), closing 5.9 per cent lower at $4.29. It was followed by shares in Incitec Pivot (ASX:IPL) and Ramelius Resources (ASX:RMS).

Asian markets

Japan’s Nikkei has lost 1.3 per cent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has gained 1.3 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has gained 1.6 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1924.03 an ounce.
Iron ore is 0.4 per cent higher at US$152.95 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 2.6 per cent.
Light crude is trading $1.03 higher at US$105.27 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 75.30 US cents.