ASX jumps higher following US consumer confidence data: Aus shares up 0.53% at noon

Market Reports

by Peter Milios

Overnight, US consumer confidence data for December revealed the highest level since April. As a result, at noon, the S&P/ASX 200 is 0.53 per cent or 37.69 points higher at 7,152.80.

BHP (ASX:BHP) has entered into a Scheme Implementation Deed with OZ Minerals (ASX:OZL) to acquire 100 per cent of OZL by way of a scheme of arrangement for a cash price of $28.25 per OZL share, equating to an enterprise value of $9.6 billion. In response, BHP CEO Mike Henry said: “The combination of BHP and OZL’s assets, skills and technical expertise provides a unique opportunity not available under separate ownership, with complementary resources including the Oak Dam exploration prospect and existing facilities within close proximity, backed by BHP’s strong balance sheet, capital discipline and commitment to sustainable development.”

The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 26 points.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector is S&P/ASX 200 Utilities, up 1.67 per cent. The worst-performing sector is S&P/ASX 200 Consumer Staples, down 0.25 per cent.

The best-performing large cap is Pro Medicus (ASX:PME), trading 4.26 per cent higher at $56.59. It is followed by shares in SEEK (ASX:SEK) and REA Group (ASX:REA).

The worst-performing large cap is James Hardie Industries (ASX:JHX), trading 1.73 per cent lower at $26.67. It is followed by shares in Whitehaven Coal (ASX:WHC) and Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN).

Asian news

Markets in the Asia-Pacific traded mixed after Wall Street ended its four-day losing streak as global bonds rose after the Bank of Japan adjusted its yield curve control tolerance.

Japan continued its second day of losses, as the Nikkei 225 fell 0.68 per cent to 26.387.72 and the Topix lost 0.64 per cent to 1,893.32. The Japanese yen stood at 131.97 against the US dollar. The Kospi in South Korea erased earlier gains and traded 0.19 per cent lower to 2,328.95.

Consumer confidence improves while existing-home sales continue to decline

December consumer confidence rose to 108.3 from November's upwardly revised 101.4 (was 100.2), beating consensus for 100.5. Follows back-to-back monthly declines. The Present Situation component rose to 147.2 vs November's 138.3 while Expectations increased to 82.4 from prior month's 76.7 (though the release notes a ~80 level is still associated with recession concerns). Said that improvement reflects a more favourable view on economy and jobs, with inflation expectations hitting their lowest level since September 2021. Labour-market differential (difference between respondents saying jobs are plentiful vs hard to get) rose to 35.8 per cent with improvements at both ends of the scale. Elsewhere, November existing-home sales were down 7.7 per cent m/m, with the 4090K SAAR lower than consensus for 4200K and October's 4430K level. Report again cited the recent rise in mortgage rates and available inventory remaining near historic lows. However, the added market may be thawing given five straight weeks of declining mortgage rates.

All sectors higher with solid gains across the board

All sectors are higher in Wednesday trading with both growth and value factors trading in line. Energy the leader on crude rally following a 5.9M barrel inventory draw. Retail stronger including particular strength across apparel after NKE-US earnings. Autos stronger, though TSLA-US a relative underperformer despite earlier bounce following hiring freeze/layoffs report. Homebuilders rallied despite another weak housing datapoint. Parcels/logistics firmer after FDX-US report. Travel and leisure better, particularly cruise lines off CCL-US earnings. Other cyclical groups also broadly higher including semis, building materials, machinery, trucking and rails, credit cards. Banks also had a good day despite rate headwinds. FANMAGs all higher, cutting into the MTD declines, though cloud computing and expensive tech names are not as strong. Not much red but drug stores saw big drag from RAD-US earnings. Defensives saw more modest gains, including telecoms and utilities.

FedEx gets aggressive with cost cuts

FedEx missed on fiscal Q2 revenues with the focus on a weak volume environment, while better pricing provided some cushion. Express, Ground, and Freight volumes are all softer than expected, though not necessarily surprising given widespread messaging about a muted peak season. Domestic Express volumes down 15 per cent y/y following an 11 per cent decline in Q1, while Ground volumes down 10 per cent following a 3 per cent decline in Q1. Highlighted expectations for a challenging macro environment to continue, with Europe and Asia particularly soft. Also some discussion about dampened yield growth momentum stemming from economic/e-commerce normalisation and lower fuel surcharges. However, EPS beat on the back of the company's cost-cutting push. Company achieved $900M in cost savings in Q2. It has identified an additional $1B of cost savings for F23, bringing the total reduction guidance to $3.7B. Also reiterated guidance for a $4B reduction in structural costs by F25, with additional detail expected in the next few months.

Company news

icetana (ASX:ICE) announced a new contract for services to be provided to Melbourne-based Monash University to supply icetana’s surveillance video analytics solution. The icetana solution ensures the privacy of those being surveilled with no facial recognition and automated learning algorithms for each camera view. icetana will allow real-time detection of many events of interest for the active response of the University’s security team. Monash joins a number of other higher education clients that include Swinburne, Curtin and Mount Royal Universities. icetana CEO and Managing Director Matt Macfarlane said: “The university market has always offered a particularly strong use-case for icetana’s AI software. Campus surveillance is highly varied with indoor requirements as well as wide open outdoor environments; from relatively quiet late night movement to very busy lunchtime events.” Shares are trading flat at $0.031 at noon.

Chimeric Therapeutics (ASX:CHM), a clinical stage cell therapy company and an Australian leader in cell therapy, announced the successful completion of the planned dosing of the third patient cohort (n=3) in the Phase 1 dose escalation study evaluating the safety and maximum tolerated dose of Chimeric’s CHM 1101 (CLTX CAR T) cell therapy, in patients with recurrent or progressive glioblastoma (GBM). Shares are trading 5.13 per cent higher at $0.082 at noon.

Jade Gas Holdings (ASX:JGH) has signed a non-binding gas offtake MOU with Xanadu Mines for commercial gas sales from Jade’s TTCBM Project. The operation is expected to have a 30-year mine life with up to 120 Mega Watts of power demand. Commenting on the news, Jade’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Chris Jamieson, said: “Jade has already established substantial gas field potential over a 45 km strike, and it is pleasing to see commercial customers in the region recognise the important role that Jade can play in providing a cleaner source of energy to deliver on ESG ambitions for sustainable operations.” Shares are trading 11.11 per cent higher at $0.05 at noon.

SciDev (ASX:SDV) has secured a contract with Cleanaway to deploy a Build Own Operate water treatment plant in Queensland to treat PFAS-impacted leachate. In response, SciDev CEO Seán Halpin said, "SciDev is generating a strong portfolio of blue chip clients across our end markets, driving revenue and expanding future growth opportunities." Shares are trading 10 per cent higher at $0.33 at noon.

GTI Energy (ASX:GTR) has announced that new uranium roll fronts have been confirmed at their operations in Wyoming’s Great Divide Basin. 29 of 33 holes drilled across their three projects have encountered uranium mineralisation. Executive Director Bruce Lane commented, “drilling this year in the Great Divide has increased our total roll front trend length to 7.5 miles & represents significant progress towards our goal of delivering a maiden resource statement in 2023.” Shares are trading 9.09 per cent higher at $0.012 at noon.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1782.70 an ounce.
Iron ore is 3.4 per cent higher at US$114.25 a tonne.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a 1.84 per cent gain.
One Australian dollar is buying 0.6706 US dollars.

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