Telstra's (ASX:TLS) $500M COVID-19 response: Aus shares 2.9% higher at noon

Market Reports

by Ortenzia Borre

The Australian share market rose at the open as investors warmed to overnight policy support. It’s now tracking 2.9 per cent higher at noon with only a handful of the top 50 in the red. Shares in CIMIC (ASX:CIM) group soared almost 50 per cent and Afterpay (ASX:APT) also rallied, rising almost 30 per cent, attempting to recover part of the week’s losses. Despite shopping centres reporting extremely quiet times, Scentre Group (ASX:SCG) has made it to the top 3 - amongst the strongest performer at noon. Continuing to fall, travel shares were hit again with Virgin Money UK (ASX:VUK) amongst the steepest declines.

The S&P/ASX 200 index is 136 points up at 4,919. On the futures market the SPI is 1.5 per cent higher. 

Broker moves

Citi has rated BlueScope Steel (ASX:BSL) as a Buy. The broker says BlueScope Steel's second half performance to date is in line with expectation as Australian demand remains robust, steel spreads remain stable and Chinese operations are now ramping back up. But Citi notes, the virus will hit sentiment, economic outlook and operations. With the share price having fallen 40% year to date to the market's 28%, the broker retains its Buy. Target falls to $13 from $15. Shares in BlueScope Steel (ASX:BSL) are currently 6.4 per cent higher at $9.59.

Company news

Telstra (ASX:TLS) has announced a range of measures in response to the economic downturn surrounding the COVID-19 impact. The company is putting on hold any further job reductions and will continue to focus on its productivity program to reduce underlying fixed costs by $2.5 billion annually by the end of FY22. Telstra also said it will employ 1000 temporary contractors to help manage call centre volumes and bring forward $500 million in capital expenditure. The telco will also suspend late fees and disconnections for small business and consumer customers unable to pay their bills. Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said it was in the nation’s interest for every company, organisation and individual to play a part in ensuring Australia comes through this challenging time as strongly as possible. Shares in Telstra (ASX:TLS) are currently 2.1 per cent lower $3.20.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector is Real Estate Investment Trust adding 13.5 per cent, while the worst performing sector is Consumer Staples shedding 3.2 per cent.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is CIMIC Group (ASX:CIM) rising 48.5 per cent to $19.31, followed by shares in Afterpay (ASX:APT) and Scentre Group (ASX:SCG).

The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Sonic Healthcare (ASX:SHL) dropping 9.5 per cent to $22.42, followed by shares in Resmed (ASX:RMD) and Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS).

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1,476 an ounce.
Iron ore price is 0.4 per cent down at US$91.36.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 4.4 per cent.
One Australian dollar is buying 57.99US cents.