Tech sector rallies, Major banks climb: ASX closes 1% higher

Market Reports

by Lauren Evans

After a strong start, the Australian sharemarket swam in positive territory for the remainder of Wednesday’s session with all sectors in the green. Technology finished as the best performer, followed by communication services and consumer discretionary, while consumer staples shed the least.

Aristocrat Leisure (ASX:ALL) said it does not anticipate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to have a material impact on earnings, despite having around 1,000 people who normally work within Aristocrat’s Pixel organisation in Ukraine. The gambling giant has assisted over two-thirds of its Ukraine-based employees and their families to voluntarily relocate. Shares rose 4 per cent to $35.19. 

Major banks added to today’s gains, led by Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) up 1.9 per cent to $97.41. National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) rose 1.7 per cent to $28.98, Macquarie Group (ASX:MQG) added 1.6 per cent to $178.55, Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) was up 1.3 per cent to $21.96 and ANZ Banking Group (ASX:ANZ) closed 1.1 per cent higher at $25.09.

Novonix (ASX:NVX) led the tech sector higher, up 8.1 per cent to $5.09 despite not releasing any official company announcements today. 

Gold stocks finished higher, led by Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) up 1.9 per cent to $28.20. Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) added 1.8 per cent to $4.50 and Northern Star (ASX:NST) closed 0.7 per cent higher at $10.95.

Heavyweight miners were mixed, as Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) rose 0.9 per cent to $18.83, Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) fell 0.5 per cent to $119.88 and BHP Group (ASX:BHP) closed 0.1 per cent lower at $48.49.

Energy stocks were also mixed, with Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) up 0.7 per cent to $33.20, while Santos (ASX:STO) fell 1 per cent to $7.78 following its news of entering the front-end engineering and design phase for the proposed Bayu-Undan project. Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) fell 0.3 per cent to $1.70 and Origin Energy (ASX:ORG) rose 1.7 per cent to $5.88 after announcing an on-market share buyback of $250 million, which is expected to commence in April this year.

Meanwhile, IAG (ASX:IAG) said it remains focussed on supporting customers affected by the severe storms and flooding in south-east Queensland and NSW. By 6am this morning, IAG had received around 24,000 claims and has now increased its expectation for FY22 net natural perils claims costs to around $1.1 billion, compared to the previous estimate of $1.04 billion. Shares closed flat at $4.26.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 1 per cent or 73 points higher at 7,053.

Local economic news

The Reserve Bank Governor, Philip Lowe delivered a speech at the Australian Financial Review Business Summit. Click here for more info.

The Westpac and Melbourne Institute released its consumer confidence report for March. Consumer sentiment fell by 4.2 per cent to 96.6 in March from 100.8 in February.

The report said this was the weakest print since September 2020, which is also the last time the index was below the 100-level. The previous low marked the end of a 15-month run of pessimism that began when the economy hit a flat patch in the second half of 2019 and worsened dramatically with the onset of the global pandemic just over two years ago.

It also said the survey would have captured most of the south-east Queensland and Northern NSW floods but preceded most of the current disasters in greater Sydney. Confidence in rural areas was generally quite resilient in the survey, most likely reflecting the encouraging developments in agricultural commodity prices and growing conditions across wider rural Australia.

Company news

Due to heavy rain currently impacting the east coast of Australia, Aurelia Metals (ASX:AMI) suspended production at its Dargues Gold Mine in NSW. The company said record rainfall has impacted both the underground mine and surface infrastructure. Shares closed 2.1 per cent lower at $0.46.

Catapult Group International (ASX:CAT) has secured a three-year deal with Champion Data to supply performance analysis solutions to the AFL. Shares closed flat at $1.08.

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 164 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 19 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a rise of 46 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 98 points when the market next opens.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Information Technology, up 3.2 per cent. The sector with the fewest gains was Consumer Staples, up 0.02 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Mesoblast (ASX:MSB), closing almost 17 per cent higher at $1.21. It was followed by shares in Paladin Energy (ASX:PDN) and Novonix (ASX:NVX).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Nickel Mines (ASX:NIC), closing 4.8 per cent lower at $1.41. It was followed by shares in Boral (ASX:BLD) and Altium (ASX:ALU).

Asian markets

Japan's Nikkei has gained 0.7 per cent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng has lost 2.3 per cent.
China's Shanghai Composite has lost 1.3 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$2057.23 an ounce.
Iron ore is 0.3 per cent lower at US$162.25 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a fall of 1.0 per cent.
Light crude is trading $1.43 higher at US$98.20 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 72.82 US cents. 

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