ASX heads south: Materials sector drags on market BHP, Rio push lower

Market Reports

by Anna Napoli

The local bourse has fallen in the first two hours of trade with gains in the health care sector unable to offset losses in the materials sector. The S&P/ASX 200 index is 31 points down or 0.5 per cent lower at 6684. On the futures market the SPI is 22 points lower. The materials sector is dragging on the marker with BHP  down 3 per cent while the energy sector is also in the red Woodside is 1.2 per cent lower while Oil Search has shed 2.5 per cent after crude oil prices shed over 2 per cent on Friday. Santos is also lower following a broker downgrade. There are some shoots of green though, Pro Medicus has jumped over 10 per cent and is helping lift the health sector. The consumer discretionary sector is also higher, JB Hi-Fi has lifted over 4 per cent following its half year trading update. This morning’s decline comes as US futures the and commodity futures decline.

Local economic news

Provisional data from the ABS reveals a 17.9 per cent increase in overseas arrivals in December compared to the November and a 98.1 per cent decrease compared to the year earlier period. Meantime, departure trips shows a 9.8 per cent increase compared to the previous month.



Broker call

Citi has downgraded Santos (ASX:STO) to neutral from buy. Analysts believe most share prices in the sector are relatively fairly valued. They also suggest the sector overall is likely to remain well supported for the near term. The new price target for Santos, $7.58 compares with $7.34 previously. Shares in Santos are currently tracking 1.6 per cent lower at $7.30.

Company news

QBE (ASX:QBE) shares are down 4.1 per cent at $8.21 following an adverse court outcome in the UK on its exposure to business interruption claims. he gross cost of UK insurance business interruption claims will increase as a result of the ruling.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector is health care gaining 0.8 per cent while the sector trailing behind is materials dropping 1.8 per cent. The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Pro Medicus (ASX:PME) rising 10.7 per cent to $42.26, followed by shares in Ramsay Healthcare (ASX:RHC) and GUD Holdings (ASX:GUD) The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is QBE (ASX:QBE) dropping 4.1 per cent to $8.21 , followed by shares in Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) and Monadelpheous (ASX:MND).

Commodities

Gold is trading at US$1,823 an ounce.
Iron ore is steady at $169.97
Futures are suggesting a rise of 0.9 per cent.
One Australian dollar is buying 76.39 US.