Miners & energy weigh: ASX closes 0.7% lower

Market Reports

by Lauren Evans

The Australian sharemarket remained in negative territory throughout the day amid ongoing tensions around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and concerns on China’s latest Covid-19 lockdown. The materials sector tumbled, followed by energy, while financials were the best performer for a second day.

Heavyweight miners weighed on the materials sector, led by Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) down 5 per cent to $17.15. BHP Group (ASX:BHP) dropped 4.2 per cent to $45.37 and Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) closed 3.9 per cent lower at $106.75, following its non-binding proposal announced yesterday to acquire the remaining 49 per cent stake in Tuqioise Hill, which it does not already own.

Gold stocks weighed, as Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) fell 2.8 per cent to $25.83, Northern Star (ASX:NST) declined 2.7 per cent to $10.47 and Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) closed 2 per cent lower at $4.39.

Energy stocks also contributed to today’s losses, led by Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) down 5 per cent to $1.53. Santos (ASX:STO) fell 4.1 per cent to $7.24 and Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) closed 2.9 per cent lower at $31.01.

Buy-now-pay-later giants tumbled, with afterpay owner Block (ASX:SQ2) down 5.2 per cent to $133.62 and Zip Co (ASX:Z1P) down 9.3 per cent to $1.41.

On a positive note, Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA) led major banks higher, up 1.8 per cent to $103.78, despite Macquarie Group (ASX:MQG) down 0.4 per cent to $186.17. Westpac (ASX:WBC) rose 1.1 per cent to $23.49, National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) added 0.9 per cent to $30.64 and ANZ Banking (ASX:ANZ) closed 0.4 per cent higher at $26.69.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.7 per cent or 52 points lower at 7,097.

Local economic news

The residential property price index rose for its sixth straight month by 4.7 per cent in the fourth quarter in 2021, coming in above expectations of 3.9 per cent as per the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This comes after a 5 per cent growth, supported by record-low interest rates and strong demand. Through the year to the fourth quarter, the index jumped 23.7 per cent, the strongest pace since the series started 2003.

This comes after conditions in the housing market remain strong if a little "more uneven", while wages growth is likely to remain similar to pre-Covid19 levels for the year, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia March meeting minutes.

Company news

Pushpay (ASX:PPH) reconfirmed and narrowed its previous guidance for the year ending March 31. The company’s guidance for the period represents an increase in underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation, foreign currency and impairments (EBITDAFI) of between 6 and 10 per cent when compared to the previous financial year. Shares closed 5.2 per cent higher at $1.02.

Imugene (ASX:IMU) announced a new clinical trial collaboration and supply agreement with MSD, a trade name for the US pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. The agreement aims to evaluate the safety and efficiency of Imugene’s HER-Vaxx for patients with gastric cancer. Shares closed 2 per cent lower at $0.24.

Objective Corporation (ASX:OCL) signed off on the purchase of Atlanta-based software company, Simflofy. The software company said Simflofy’s technology tames the data sprawl prevalent in today’s organisations, by connecting myriad business systems, content management repositories and file stores so that users can find information wherever it is held. Shares closed 0.9 per cent lower at $16.09.

VGI Partners (ASX:VGI) and Regal Funds Management have agreed to extend the period of exclusivity regarding the proposed merger to March 28. This comes after VGI announced its proposal to acquire 100 per cent of shares in Regal on January 31. Shares closed 1.8 per cent lower at $4.02.

Healius’ (ASX:HLS) board has approved an on-market share buyback of up to $100 million over the next 12 months. The healthcare company said the buy-back will be managed within the ‘10/12 limit’ permitted by the Corporations Act, and therefore does not require shareholder approval. Shares closed 3.5 per cent higher at $4.46.  

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 15 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 7 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a rise of 63 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a fall of 54 points when the market next opens.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Financials, up almost 1 per cent. The worst-performing sector was Materials, down 3.7 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Uniti Group (ASX:UWL), closing 27.3 per cent higher at $4.01. It was followed by shares in Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals (ASX:CUV) and Janus Henderson Group (ASX:JHG).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Chalice Mining (ASX:CHN), closing 10.3 per cent lower at $6.80. It was followed by shares in Champion Iron (ASX:CIA) and Zip Co (ASX:Z1P).

Asian markets

Japan's Nikkei has gained 0.24 per cent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng has lost 3.11 per cent.
China's Shanghai Composite has lost 2.63 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1931.12 an ounce.
Iron ore is 6.2 per cent lower at US$144.90 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a fall of 2.5 per cent.
Light crude is trading $5.18 lower at US$96.00 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 71.83 US cents.

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