Iron ore stocks surge, Banks lift, Tech sinks: ASX closes 1.1% higher

Market Reports

by Lauren Evans

The Australian sharemarket maintained momentum in the afternoon session thanks to strong gains among the heavyweight miners. All sectors closed higher except consumer staples and technology. 

BHP Group (ASX:BHP) led the iron ore players, closing 3.7 per cent higher at $49.15, followed by Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) up 3.3 per cent at $22.23 and Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) up 2.2 per cent at $117.18.

Macquarie Bank (ASX:MQG) led the major banks, closing 3.9 per cent higher at $201.57. Macquarie's commodities and global markets business was the investment bank’s bright performing division, contributing 37 per cent of the group’s profit amid strong market conditions. The company described its financial year 2022’s third quarter as a “record” period for the group.

ANZ Bank (ASX:ANZ) advanced 1.5 per cent to $26.96, Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) added 1.4 per cent to $21.85, National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) lifted 0.6 per cent to $27.73 and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) closed 0.3 per cent higher at $94.30.

Gold stocks lifted, led by Northern Star (ASX:NST), up 1.1 per cent at $8.48, while Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) added 0.6 per cent to $3.60 and Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) closed 0.4 per cent higher at $22.56.

Energy stocks were mixed with Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) up 1 per cent at $27.03, Santos (ASX:STO) up 0.4 per cent to $7.60 and Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) down 0.7 per cent to $1.52.

Elsewhere, Suncorp Group (ASX:SUN) trimmed its interim dividend after profit fell 20.8 per cent to $388 million during the first six months of the 2022 financial year. Shares closed 5.9 per cent higher at $12.08.

Nanosonics (ASX:NAN) revised its current sales model with GE Healthcare in North America, with changes set to come in this month ahead of the expiry of the current contract in June. Shares closed 4.8 per cent lower at $4.80.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 1.1 per cent or 76 points higher at 7,187.

Local economic news

ANZ and Roy Morgan released their weekly consumer confidence report. Consumer confidence deceased 1.9 points to 99.9 during the first week of February. Consumer confidence is still a significant 11.5 points below the same week a year ago, February 6/7, 2021 (111.4) and now just below the 2022 weekly average of 101.1.

Western Australia’s border closure to rest of Australia, and the world, was planned to be reopened on February 5th but was delayed indefinitely. This same week Consumer confidence has decreased 9 points in WA and 14 points in Perth perhaps indicating "dissatisfaction" with the continuing border closure.

Driving the small decrease were changes in sentiment regarding the performance of the Australians’ personal finances compared to a year ago and over the next year.

NAB’s business survey for January was also released. Business conditions fell 5 points in January, to +3 index points, declining below their long-run average. All three components of conditions deteriorated, with large falls in profitability (down 8 points to +2 index points) and trading conditions (down 7 points to +7). Employment also fell (down 3 points to -1).

The statement said business conditions deteriorated in January as the Omicron variant caused Covid-19 cases to reach unprecedented levels, triggering consumer caution and staff shortages. Profitability, trading conditions, and employment all fell, with the impact felt across almost all states and industries. Recreation & personal services continues to be hardest hit but retail, transport, and construction all saw large negative impacts.

Meanwhile, business confidence rebounded 15 points in January to +3 index points after falling to -12 in December. Confidence rose across all industries outside mining, and across all states. Forward orders were steady at +4 index points, while capital expenditure edged down 3 points to +3. Capacity utilisation rose from 80.7 per cent to 81.6 per cent.

Company news

Charter Hall Long WALE REIT (ASX:CLW) lifted its distributions by 5.1 per cent to $15.24 per share for the half year ending December 31. The real estate investment trust lifted its operating earnings by 5.6 per cent from the prior year period as property valuations soared 8.3 per cent. Shares are trading 1.5 per cent higher at $4.94.

Bapcor (ASX:BAP) has appointed Noel Meehan as its new chief executive officer to start today. Mr Meehan has been acting CEO since December last year. He started with the company two years ago as chief financial officer. Shares are up 0.4 per cent at $7.11.

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 10 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 2 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a rise of 12 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 75 points when the market next opens.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Materials, up 2.2 per cent. The worst-performing sector was Information Technology, down 1.6 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Webjet (ASX:WEB), closing 7.4 per cent higher at $5.92. It was followed by shares in Magellan Financial Group (ASX:MFG) and Flight Centre Travel Group (ASX:FLT).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Appen (ASX:APX), closing 7.4 per cent lower at $8.25. It was followed by shares in Block (ASX:SQ2) and Nanosonics (ASX:NAN).

Asian markets

Japan's Nikkei has gained 0.3 per cent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng has lost 1.7 per cent.
China's Shanghai Composite has lost 1.1 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1819.85 an ounce.
Iron ore is 1.9 per cent higher at US$149.40 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 2.9 per cent.
Light crude is trading $0.11 lower at US$91.21 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 71.15 US cents. 

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