Aussie shares are mostly unchanged with a choppy open to trade. The ASX 200 is trading around three points higher after being down by as much as 0.6% earlier in the session. This follows a volatile session in US markets overnight. There were big swings on the Dow Jones with the index trading in a 500 point range as 10 year bond yields, one of the causes of recent volatility, are still near its highs of 2014.
Back home, most sectors are in the red with commodity stocks the main drag on the market offsetting gains in financials and telcos. Commodity prices, including oil and metals prices, have dipped on a strengthening US dollar. Major energy producers, Woodside (WPL) and Santos (STO) are both 1.6% lower while Origin Energy (ORG) is 1.5% weaker. ORG also announced this morning it is expecting to write down $533 million as a post-tax impairment with $360 million attributed to its Ironbark gas field and $173 million in lost earnings from its sale of Lattice Energy to Beach Energy (BPT). Miners are also weighing on the market with BHP sliding 1.7%, Bluescope Steel (BSL) down 2.2% and South32 (S32) falling 1.4%.
Rio Tinto (RIO) is the worst performer among the major miners, down 2.3% despite the diversified miner announcing a $69% lift to its underlying earnings for the first half of financial year 2018 to US$8.6 billion while net debt has dropped 60% to US$3.8 billion. Rio has also lifted its interim dividend to US$2.90, up 71%.
National Australia Bank (NAB) is helping lift the financial sector with the share price up 2% on its first quarter update. NAB recorded unaudited cash earnings of $1.65 billion for the quarter, a 3% lift versus the same time a year ago. NAB did note a decline in its Net Interest Margin and rise in expenses. AMP Ltd (AMP) is rising 4% in early trade after the wealth management firm produced a full year net profit of $848 million in 2017 compared to a $344 million net loss the year before, helped by a lift in earnings for its wealth protection business.
Meanwhile, Tabcorp (TAH) shares have slid 6.5% with net profit after tax (NPAT) fell 58% to $24 million as costs for its merger with Tatts Group weighing on the result. Not including significant items (including merger costs), NPAT fell 20% to $82 million.
It’s a quiet day on the economic front locally. In the region, Chinese trade data for January will be released later today. The Aussie dollar is currently trading around 78.2 US cents falling from highs of 78.86 US cents in overnight trade. So far, 1.2B units have traded hands worth $2.0B with 556 stocks higher, 421 lower and 344 unchanged.
Originally published by CommSec