The Australian share market opened lower this morning following a sell-off on Wall Street amid further COVID-19 uncertainty and is now trading 1.3 per cent lower at noon. In breaking news Virgin Australia (ASX:VIR) has suspended trading of its shares. This morning asked the ASX to suspend its shares for seven days or until a further announcement is made on a rescue plan after entering into a two-day trading halt on Tuesday.
Mayne Pharma Group (ASX:MYX) is leading the top 200 gains at midday, up almost 8 per cent with Corporate Travel Management (ASX:CTD) coming in last. The S&P/ASX 200 index is 69 points down at 5,398. On the futures market the SPI is 74 points down.
Local Economic News
The trend monthly hours worked remained unchanged between February and March 2020, according to the latest information released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.
The trend unemployment rate remained steady at 5.2 per cent in early March, from a revised February figure.
UBS has upgraded Charter Hall Retail REIT (ASX:CQR) to a Buy from a Neutral. The broker says it’s reviewed the company’s retail REIT valuations in light of the government's new landlord/tenant "code of conduct, and while the code is tenant-friendly, the broker notes, there could be some offset for landlords in the form of tax relief as well as relief from the banks.
UBS says the balance sheets and liquidity positions are generally sound but expects June half dividends to be withheld and longer term payout ratios reduced to preserve capital.
Overall impact varies by REIT, subject to retail exposure. Upgrade to Buy from Neutral for Charter Hall Retail, target falls to $3.50 from $4.80. Shares in Charter Hall Retail REIT (ASX:CQR) are trading 3.3 per cent lower at $3.21 at noon.
Star Entertainment Group (ASX:SGR) has secured an additional $200m debt funding facility after it was forced to close all non-essential businesses. The COVID-19 related directives have severly impacted the company requiring the closure of all non-essential businesses and the impacts on The Star’s operations, and the deferral of the 1H FY2020 dividend and changes to its dividend policy. The crisis has resulted in 8,500 staff being stood down with non-executive directors reducing their fees by 50 per cent as well the chief executive taking a 40 per cent pay cut.
Shares in The Star Entertainment Group (ASX:SGR) are trading 4.7 per cent higher at $2.45.
Best and worst performers
The best-performing sector is Consumer Staples, adding 1.3 per cent, while the worst performing sector is A-REIT shedding 2.5 per cent.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Mayne Pharma Group (ASX:MYX), rising 7.3 per cent to 37 cents, followed by shares in The Star Entertainment Group (ASX:SGR) and Silver Lake Resources (ASX:SLR).
The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Corporate Travel Management (ASX:CTD) dropping 12 per cent to $9.64, followed by shares in Virgin Money UK (ASX:VUK) and Flight Centre Travel Group (ASX:FLT).
Commodities and the dollar
Gold is trading at US$1,714 an ounce.
Iron ore price is up 0.2 per cent to US$86.86
Iron ore futures are pointing to a fall of 0.8 per cent.
One Australian dollar is buying 62.87 US cents.