Tech stocks weigh, Miners drag: ASX closes 0.5% lower

The Australian sharemarket snapped its two-day winning streak after spending all of Wednesday’s session in the red. The tech sector led today’s losses, followed by materials and consumer discretionary, while financials was the top performer.

Novonix (ASX:NVX) led tech’s decline and was the worst performer, down 6.9 per cent to $6.76. This was followed by Afterpay owner Block (ASX:SQ2), which was down 6.9 per cent to $178.27 as the second-worst performer.

Gold stocks weakened today, along with some energy stocks after oil and gold prices settled lower overnight. 

Northern Star (ASX:NST) led gold stocks lower, down 3.9 per cent to at $10.14. Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) dropped 3.5 per cent to $4.19 and Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) closed 2.4 per cent lower at $26.61.

On the energy front, Santos (ASX:STO) fell 1 per cent to $8.02, Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) dipped 0.6 per cent to $33.74 and Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) finished flat at $1.59.

Heavyweight miners also contributed to today’s fall. Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) fell 1.2 per cent to $118.85, BHP (ASX:BHP) was down 1 per cent to $51.41 and Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) closed 0.3 per cent lower at $21.66.

Macquarie Group (ASX:MQG) weighed on news that the European infrastructure fund of Macquarie is set to sell Germany’s Open Grid Europe as reported by Reuters. Shares closed 0.9 per cent lower at $205.14.

On a brighter note, Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA) rose 1.3 per cent to $105.71, National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) added 1.2 per cent to $32.56, ANZ Banking (ASX:ANZ) lifted 1.2 per cent to $27.36 and Westpac Banking (ASX:WBC) closed 0.8 per cent higher at $24.24.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.5 per cent or 38 points lower at 7,490.

What else were we looking at today?

Morgan Stanley reinstated the coverage for GrainCorp (ASX:GNC) to overweight with a $10 price target. Shares closed 0.7 per cent lower at $8.40.

After the proposed merger with Pendal Group (ASX:PDL), Perpetual’s (ASX:PPT) share price recovered yesterday. Citi believed the merger would likely be earnings per share accretive by as much as mid to high single digits. The broker retained its buy rating and target price of $40. Shares in Perpetual (ASX:PPT) closed 1.4 per cent higher at $32.84.

Coles (ASX:COL) was on watch amid an AFR report that Wesfarmers (ASX:WES) sold a $500 million stake in the supermarket giant, which was equivalent to a 2.1 per cent stake in the company at a 1.8 per cent discount to the closing price yesterday of $17.75. Shares in Coles (ASX:COL) closed 0.7 per cent lower at $17.95, while shares in Wesfarmers (ASX:WES) closed 0.9 per cent lower at $49.24.

Company news

The takeover battle continues for IVF operator Virtus Health (ASX:VRT) after private equity firm BGH Capital came back with an off-market takeover offer of $8.00 per share. This comes after Virtus received an offer at $8.25 via a scheme of arrangement from rival buyout firm CapVest. Keeping in mind BGH owns a 19.99 per cent stake in Virtus already, its offer was structured to allow BGH to start buying from today. Shares in Virtus (ASX:VRT) closed 0.7 per cent higher at $8.13.

Ventia (ASX:VNT) was granted a two-year contract extension by the Commonwealth Government to deliver property management services to 39 Government entities across 650 properties. The contract extension runs from July 1 this year and is expected to generate around $270 million in revenue for the company. Shares closed 0.8 per cent higher at $2.58.

Crown Resorts (ASX:CWN) was informed by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission that it is deciding what action should be taken in regards to Crown’s use of the China UnionPay process. The company said it will fully cooperate on this matter. Shares closed 0.7 per cent lower at $12.26.

PolyNovo (ASX:PNV) reported record March quarter revenue of $12.26 million, up 59.3 per cent from the same period a year ago. Year-to-date revenue came in at $30.42 million with a run rate circa $48 million per annum. Shares closed 3.2 per cent higher at $1.12, and was the second-best stock.

Heartland Group (ASX:HGH) made changes to its executive team. Michael Drumm was appointed chief operating officer of Heartland. Andy Wood will take over as chief risk officer of Heartland Bank from April 11. Shares were in a trading halt and last traded at $2.11.

Strike Energy (ASX:STX) entered into a five-year gas supply agreement with Perth Energy. The gas supply will be sourced from Strike’s Perth Basin gas and delivered into the WA gas transportation network. Shares closed 1.6 per cent higher at $0.32.


The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 7 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 3 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a fall of 9 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a fall of 39 points when the market next opens.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Financials, up 0.7 per cent. The worst-performing sector was Information Technology, down 2.9 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Whitehaven Coal (ASX:WHC), closing 5.5 per cent higher at $4.39. It was followed by shares in PolyNovo (ASX:PNV) and AMP (ASX:AMP).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Novonix (ASX:NVX), closing 6.9 per cent lower at $6.76. It was followed by shares in Block (ASX:SQ2) and AVZ Minerals (ASX:AVZ).

Asian markets

Japan’s Nikkei has lost 1.6 per cent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has lost 1.4 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has lost 0.2 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1919.32 an ounce.
Iron ore is flat at US$160.80 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 3.7 per cent.
Light crude is trading $0.32 higher at US$102.28 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 75.70 US cents.