On the last trading day of the year the Australian market has ignored fresh record highs in the US last night. The ASX 200 index is down 0.3 per cent on very light volumes this holiday-shortened week. Mining stocks are the lone winners, barely hanging onto some gains with BHP Billiton (BHP), Rio Tinto (RIO) and Newcrest Mining (NCM) all a little higher.
Myer (MYR) – which has been one of the worst performing retailers this year – is up by approximately 4 per cent and one of the strongest movers today.
QBE Insurance (QBE) has agreed to pay $132.5m to settle a shareholder class action from 2015. Payout is still subject to court approval and the insurer said it will not have a material impact on its earnings.
As the market crawls towards the end of the year, Aussie shares have posted decent gains ~6.9 per cent in 2017. This is almost exactly the same percentage gain as 2016. All the gains and momentum this year have been recorded in the past three months, with the ASX 200 lifting by ~8 per cent since the start of October.
The market seems to have been encouraged by the biggest US tax reforms in 30 years, record highs for American equities (71 record closes in 2017) and the payment of ~$9bn in dividends from four of the big five banks this month alone. This has helped the ASX 200 remain above 6000pts and near 10-year highs, breaking out of range-bound trade the index was stuck in for four months of the year (May-Sept).
The best performing sectors were technology, health, energy and mining stocks which have surged by ~20 per cent this year. Telcos fell most, slumping by 26 per cent and together with modest falls from the financials have been the only losers this year.
A2 Milk (A2M) has been the best performing stocks this year, surging by 261 per cent. Last month the dairy group said its profits have doubled over the past 16 weeks with demand for infant formula in Australia and China remaining robust. Further back A2M announced a tripling in earnings back in August.
Retail Food Group (RFG) has been the worst performer over the year, sliding by 66 per cent. Most of its losses have come in the past two weeks following media reports questioning its franchisee profitability.
On the economic front, private sector credit rose by 0.5 per cent in November to be up 5.4 per cent over the year.
1.6bn shares have changed hands so far today, worth just 897.6m. 471 stocks are up, 517 down and 368 are flat.
Originally published by CommSec