The Australian share started the session lower today but it's starting to level off. It comes as US markets closed in negative territory after some better than expected economic news. The US fed rose interest rates by a quarter of a per cent as expected. But it was their bolstered economic outlook and increase in rate-hike forecasts for next year that spooked markets.
Most sectors are below the line at noon, with Telcos, Property, ulites and staples trading lower as well as the big four banks amid the 8th day of the royal banking commission.
Miners and energy stocks are bucking the trend are shining today, up over 1 per cent.
It comes as the iron ore price strengthen lifting the materials space, with the likes of BHP (ASX:BHP) rising 2.5 per cent, with Rio (ASX:RIO) jumping about 1.6 per cent. And the big local lithium players are also charging with Orocobre (ASX:ORE), Galaxy Resources (ASX:GXY) and Pilbara (ASX:PLS) up over 2 per cent as well.
The crude oil price is trading near one year highs, at the $65 level, after US stockpiles surprisingly dropped. We are seeing Beach Energy (ASX:BPT), WorleyParsons (ASX:WOR) and Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) gain over 2 per cent.
Sigma Healthcare Limited (ASX:SIG), is one of the biggest weights on the market this session, after it reported weaker underlying profits, revenue and earnings for the full year to January.
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 0.02 points up or 1 point higher at 5,951. On the futures market the SPI is 3 points lower.
Local economic news
The employment participation rate increased to 65.7 per cent, the highest it has been since December 2010. It was also better than the market expected. The female labour force participation also increased, to a new historical high of 60.6 per cent.
TV video platform company, Big Un (ASX:BIG) appointed a new chairman, Nicholas Jordon with immediate effect. He previously worked as co-CEO of Goldman Sachs, Russia and Confederation of Independent States (CIS). Nicholas Jordon is an investment banker by trade, who has held many leading roles at US and European investment banks. Big Un is also considering other new recruits for an additional Australian based board position. It comes after the company was hit with media speculation, about its cash flow and working capital, following an article in the AFR on its alleged “cash flow secrets.” Its shares entered suspension on 22 February at $2.22.
IAG (ASX:IAG) is seeking to raise a minimum of $300 million of subordinated notes, for Tier 2 Capital, under the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s (APRA) capital adequacy framework. To raise the funds it’s offering a new subordinated debt issue to wholesale investors, which it’s expecting to price either today or tomorrow (Friday 23 March). Its shares are trading 0.3 per cent lower at $7.72.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector is materials adding 1.6 per cent to 11,491 points while the worst performing sector is telcos, shedding 1.3 per cent to 1,195 points.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Alumina (ASX:AWC), rising 5 per cent to $2.47, followed by shares in Orocobre (ASX:ORE) and Syrah Resources (ASX:SYR).
The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Sigma Healthcare Limited (ASX:SIG), dropping 7 per cent to $0.82, followed by shares in Carsales.com.(ASX:CAR) and Australian Pharmaceutical Industries (ASX:API).
Gold and the dollar
Gold is trading at $US1,333 an ounce.
One Australian dollar is buying 77.59 US cents.
Bitcoin has gained 1 per cent to US$9,067, Ethereum gained about 2 per cent to US$571 and EOS has gained about 16 per cent to US$7.04.