Energy stocks fall, Consumer confidence edges higher: ASX flat at noon

Market Reports

by Lauren Evans

The ASX is flat at lunchtime after see-saw trading this morning as investors searched for safety amid the US and allies mulling a ban on energy imports from Russia. The energy sector retreated from yesterday’s gains, followed by materials, while healthcare is the best-performing sector.

Santos (ASX:STO) is weighing on energy stocks, down 3.1 per cent to $7.92. Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) has declined 1.8 per cent to $33.78 and Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) is trading 0.9 per cent lower at $1.76.

Heavyweight miners are lower, led by Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) down 2.4 per cent to $123.01. Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) has fallen 2 per cent to $19.15 and BHP Group (ASX:BHP) is trading 1.6 per cent lower at $49.59.

Gold stocks are mixed, with Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) down 1.1 per cent to $4.34 and Northern Star (ASX:NST) down 0.1 per cent to $10.73, while Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) is trading 0.4 per cent higher at $27.48.

Meanwhile, major banks are higher, led by Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) up 1.4 per cent to $95.99. Macquarie Group (ASX:MQG) has risen 1 per cent to $177.03, ANZ Banking Group (ASX:ANZ) has added 0.6 per cent to $25.16, Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) is up 0.3 per cent to $21.83 and National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) is trading 0.07 per cent higher at $28.46.

CSL (ASX:CSL) is leading the healthcare sector higher, up 3 per cent to $257.14. Telix Pharmaceuticals (ASX:TLX) is trading 0.7 per cent higher at $4.68, following its phase three study of investigational kidney cancer, named ZIRCON which reached its target enrolment of dosing 252 patients. 

At noon, the S&P/ASX 200 is 0.02 per cent or 1.1 points higher at 7039.7.

The SPI futures are pointing to a fall of 14 points.

Local economic news 

ANZ and Roy Morgan released their weekly consumer sentiment figures today. Consumer confidence increased 0.9 points to 100.1 during the first week of March, while consumer confidence is 11.8 points below the same week a year ago and is now just below the 2022 weekly average of 101.1.

It said consumer confidence has been unable to establish a consistent pattern this year with four weekly increases and four weekly decreases so far. The havoc caused by the Omicron strain, flooding in many parts of Queensland and NSW, and also rising geopolitical tensions in Europe and worries about inflation have all played a part to influence consumer expectations in different weeks.

It also said there were no consistent trends in the states this week with consumer confidence up slightly in Sydney, Queensland (as floods receded) and SA, but down in Country NSW (which was hit by floods), Victoria, and WA as restrictions were introduced in Perth to fight Covid-19.

National Australia Bank released their business sentiment survey for February. Business conditions rose 7 points in February to plus 9 index points, to be back above their long-run average. The result was driven by a sharp rise in the employment index which rose 9 points to plus 8 index points, reflecting fewer health-related employment disruptions and strong labour demand. Trading conditions were up 2 points to plus 10 and profitability rose 3 points to plus 5. 

It said business conditions and confidence strengthened in February as the Omicron virus wave eased and the late 2021 momentum was regained. Almost all mainland states and industries shared in the upswing, but WA saw conditions fall as the planned border reopening was postponed. 

It also said businesses continued to report elevated costs growth, although purchase cost growth eased slightly from the record levels reached in January. Final product price inflation also remained elevated with retail prices strengthening to over 2 per cent in quarterly terms, suggesting that cost pressures are increasingly being passed on to consumers. However, prices continue to be driven more by temporary purchase cost factors rather than more sustained wage and labour cost pressures. 

Company news 

Calix (ASX:CXL) has received approval for its crop protection product BOOSTER-Mag, following an initial application in January 2020. The company said the product aims to reduce farmer input costs and produce food more safely and sustainably. Shares are trading 3.4 per cent higher at $6.46. 

Home Consortium (ASX:HMC) is rebranding its company name to HMC Capital. The new name is said to reflect the company's growth as a fund manager and ambition to become a more diversified asset manager. Shares are trading 1.5 per cent higher at $6.94. 

FirstWave Cloud Technology (ASX:FCT) has extended its contract with Telstra (ASX:TLS) for another two years, with a further two-year option. Shares last traded $0.061 yesterday. 

IPO

US Student Housing REIT (ASX:USQ) has listed on the ASX today. Their shares issued at $1.38, opened at $1.38 and are now trading at $1.35.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector is health care, up 2.1 per cent. The worst-performing sector is energy, down 2.1 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is St Barbara (ASX:SBM), trading 7.4 per cent higher at $1.53. It is followed by shares in Aristocrat Leisure (ASX:ALL) and Janus Henderson Group (ASX:JHG).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is BlueScope Steel (ASX:BSL), trading 6.7 per cent lower at $19.43. It is followed by shares in PolyNovo (ASX:PNV) and South32 (ASX:S32).

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1991.26 an ounce.
One Australian dollar is buying 73.35 US cents.
Iron ore is 6.8 per cent higher at US$162.75 a ton.
Iron ore futures are flat.

Are you a 708 sophisticated investor?

A sophisticated investor is defined under Section 708 of the Corporations Act (net assets of $2.5 million or annual incomes in excess of $250,000).

They are eligible to receive information regarding wholesale investment opportunities that are not available to regular or retail investors.

Please subscribe if you would like to be alerted to these types of opportunities.