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At lunch, the ASX 200 has bounced off this morning’s lows and continues to eat away at this morning’s losses with the index down only 0.05 per cent following yet another solid set of employment numbers. Gains from mining and energy stocks are supporting the market most.
As expected jobs growth in Australia has now extended to a record 17 straight months. 17,500 jobs were added in February. While this falls slightly short of the 20,000 expected, full-time jobs accounted for all the job gains. 64,900 full-time jobs were added while part-time positions fell by 47,400. The unemployment rate edged higher to 5.6 per cent following a lift in the participation rate (the number of people either in work or looking for work).
Mining and energy stocks are standing out, lifting strongly thanks to the Federal Reserve pulling no surprise punches by raising rates 0.25 per cent. The Fed reaffirmed its target to lift rates twice more this year (some were concerned this could be lifted to three). This helped push the USD lower and commodity prices higher. Chairman Jerome Powell – who took the reins from Janet Yellen last month raised estimates for GDP and anticipates steeper rate hikes in 2019 and 2020.
The gains in the mining sector are not enough just yet to push the broader market higher.
Almost $1bn in dividends will be paid out to investors today by Woodside (WPL), Lend Lease (LLC), Blackmores (BKL), The Star (SGR) and Mortgage Choice (MOC). Around $10bn will be paid out to investors over the next week.
Brickworks (BKW) is down 1.7 per cent after the building products maker handed down a 7 per cent slide in first half profit to $97m. Revenue slipped by 7.5 per cent to $396.7m. Building activity across the east coast remains a driver of the group’s growth.
Sigma (SIG) is down 2.5 per cent after the pharmacy distributor delivered a 10.5 per cent fall in annual underlying profit to $59.9m. The result was held back by lower sales of its hepatitis C medicines although it was in-line with its annual guidance.
Myer (MYR) is down 4 per cent and remains under pressure following yesterday’s underwhelming half year results. The struggling department store operator lost $476m over the first half due to writedowns and has prompted a number of brokers to cut their price forecasts on the stock.
1.7bn shares have changed hands so far today worth $2.2bn. 522 stocks are up, 510 are down and 355 are flat.
Published by CommSec