Healthcare leads, Miners & energy fall: ASX closes 0.8% lower

Market Reports

by Lauren Evans

After see-saw trading this morning, the Australian sharemarket fell into negative territory in the afternoon session as investors searched for safety amid the US and allies mulling a ban on energy imports from Russia. Across the sectors, energy and materials both tumbled while healthcare was the best performer.

Energy stocks tumbled, led by Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) down 4.2 per cent to $32.98. Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) fell 4 per cent to $1.70 and Santos (ASX:STO) closed 3.8 per cent lower at $7.86.

Heavyweight miners weighed, led by Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) down 4.5 per cent to $18.66. Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) dropped 4.3 per cent to $120.51 and BHP Group (ASX:BHP) closed 3.7 per cent lower at $48.53.

Gold stocks finished higher, led by Northern Star (ASX:NST) up 1.2 per cent to $10.87. Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) added 1.1 per cent to $27.68 and Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) closed 0.7 per cent higher at $4.42.

Major banks were mixed with Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) up 1 per cent to $95.59, National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) up 0.2 per cent to $28.49, and Macquarie Group (ASX:MQG) also up 0.2 per cent to $175.70. On the other hand, ANZ Banking Group (ASX:ANZ) fell 0.7 per cent to $24.82 and Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) closed 0.5 per cent lower at $21.67.

Meanwhile, Imugene (ASX:IMU) and Mesoblast (ASX:MSB) led the healthcare sector higher, up 4.4 and 6.6 per cent respectively.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.8 per cent or 58 points lower at 6,980.

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) 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 closed 1.5 per cent lower at $6.16.

Home Consortium (ASX:HMC) have rebranded 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 closed 1.5 per cent lower at $6.74.

FirstWave Cloud Technology (ASX:FCT) extended its contract with Telstra (ASX:TLS) for another two years, with a further two-year option. Shares closed 3.3 per cent lower at $0.059.

Telix Pharmaceuticals (ASX:TLX) closed flat at $4.65, following its phase three study of investigational kidney cancer, named ZIRCON which reached its targeted enrolment of dosing 252 patients.

IPO

US Student Housing REIT (ASX:USQ) listed on the ASX today. Their shares issued at $1.38, opened at $1.38 and closed 1.5 per cent lower at $1.36.

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a fall of 109 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a fall of 12 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a fall of 57 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a fall of 74 points when the market next opens.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Health Care, up 1.9 per cent. The worst-performing sector was Energy, down 3.6 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was St Barbara (ASX:SBM), closing 12.7 per cent higher at $1.60. It was followed by shares in Imugene (ASX:IMU) and Mesoblast (ASX:MSB).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Nickel Mines (ASX:NIC), closing 10.6 per cent lower at $1.48. It was followed by shares in BlueScope Steel (ASX:BSL) and Liontown Resources (ASX:LTR).

Asian markets

Japan's Nikkei has lost 1.2 per cent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng has lost 0.1 per cent.
China's Shanghai Composite has lost 1.7 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1990.80 an ounce.
Iron ore is 6.8 per cent higher at US$162.75 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a fall of 0.5 per cent.
Light crude is trading $2.07 higher at US$121.47 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 72.92 US cents.
 

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