The Australian share market started the week on a sour note, diving 0.6 per cent, taking the market back to where it was late October. The ASX200 fell at the open and lost further momentum with over half of the sectors closing lower and utilities and miners copping the brunt of selling. Selling among the miners was sparked by fears that President Donald Trump's announced tariffs on steel and aluminium could spark a trade war.
Retail Food Group (ASX:RFG) the owner of Gloria Jeans and Donut King lost about 36 per cent after it announced last week, $138 million in write downs from store closures and disposals.
While on the up, telcos and health stocks with the likes of small cap Patrys (ASX:PAB) climbed 60 per cent, while heavyweights like Primary Health Care (ASX:PRY) gained over 1 per cent. Retailer Myer (ASX:MYR) swung 15 per cent higher.
At the closing bell the S&P/ASX 200 index closed 34 points lower, or 0.6 per cent at 5,895. On the futures market the SPI is 36 points down.
The value of trades was $4.5 billion on volume of 664 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP), Westpac (ASX:WBC)) and ANZ (ASX:ANZ).
Local economic news
In economic news, dwelling approvals rose 0.1 per cent in January. It’s welcome news as trend approvals have been falling for the past three months, according to the ABS.
The Australian services sector index fell slightly in February by 0.9 points to a reading of 54 in February. It’s the 12th consecutive month of positive results and although it beat analysts’ expectations, it was a slightly softer rate of expansion compared to January. But, it’s important to remember a reading above 50 points, indicates expansion.
Crown Resorts (ASX:CWN) may have breached gambling regulations for a period of three weeks in 2017, when it trialed some gaming machines last year using a ‘blanking button’ on a number of machines. The casino operator is of the view that no laws were contravened as it did not require prior approval. But the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor regulation says prior approval should have been sought. At the same time, it also announced that a major shareholder, Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) expects to sell some of its shares and retain a 47 per cent holding in the company. Crown Resorts (ASX:CWN) shares closed 2.3 per cent lower at $13.09
The Bank of Queensland (ASX:BOQ) today confirmed it will redeem all of its outstanding convertible preference shares (ASX:BOQPD) with the optional conversion/redemption of 16 April 2018. The redemption price of $102.44 will be paid to holders on the 16 April.
Murray Goulburn (ASX:MGT) has announced that the company poised to take it over, Canadian dairy giant Saputo, has started talks with the ACCC to address its concerns over selling Murray Goulburn’s Koroit dairy processing plant in Victoria.
And the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) has announced the appointment of Anne Templeman-Jones as an independent non-executive director. She currently serves on the boards of HT&E, WorleyParsons, GUD holdings and Citadel Group.
Best and worst performers of the day
The best performing sector was telcos adding 0.8 per cent to close at 1,196. The worst performing sector was utilities, shedding 2.3 per cent to close at 7,331. points.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Myer Holdings Limited (ASX:MYR), rising 15 per cent to close at $0.46. Shares in Lynas Corporation (ASX:LYC) and Resolute Mining Limited (ASX:RSG) followed higher.
The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Retail Food Group Limited (ASX:RFG), dropping 37 per cent to close at $1.29. Shares in Spark Infrastructure Group (ASX:SKI) and Pilbara Minerals Limited (ASX:PLS) followed lower.
Japan’s Nikkei has lost 1.1 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has lost 1.3 per cent and the Shanghai Composite has lost 0.2 per cent.
Commodities and the dollar
Gold is trading at $US1,326 an ounce.
Light crude is $0.26 up at $US61.25 barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 77.54 US cents.
The three most traded cryptocurrencies are trading mostly higher: Bitcoin has gained 3 per cent to US$11,570, Tether is holding at US$0.99 and Ethereum has gained about 2 per cent to US$869.