SYDNEY, AAP – A hefty BHP first-half profit has helped limit losses on an Australian share market weighed down by worry over the prospect of conflict in Europe.
Market giant BHP reported improved profit to $13.2 billion and raised its interim payout after an excellent performance at its Western Australian iron ore arm.
The miner’s shares jumped more than 2.5 per cent in early trade before settling to less than one per cent higher at $48.70.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 26.5 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 7217.4 points at 1200 AEDT on Tuesday.
The All Ordinaries index was lower by 31.6 points, or 0.41 per cent, to 7503.5 points.
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Wall Street closed lower overnight after the US said it will close its Kyiv embassy in Ukraine in view of a possible invasion.
Oil prices on Monday rose to their highest level in more than seven years as European and US leaders warned a Russian invasion of its neighbour could happen within days.
Local energy shares dropped two per cent, giving back almost all of Monday’s gains, as uncertainty about Russia’s plans for Ukraine continued.
Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of Australia said better than expected progress was made on its goals for employment and inflation, which is why the board decided to end monetary support through its bond buying program.
But the minutes of the central bank’s February 1 board meeting reaffirmed members are yet to be convinced the pick-up in inflation will be sustained and will be patient before raising the cash rate.
In company earnings news, Seek upgraded its full-year forecast after employers replacing workers cut earlier in the pandemic helped boost first-half profit.
The online jobs business reported first-half profit rose 32 per cent to $88.1 million, helped by Australian employers hiring again after lockdowns. Seek shares jumped eight per cent to $30.05.
Metals recycler Sims was one of the biggest movers, surging 16 per cent to $17.49, after declaring investors will receive $135 million in cash payments after a bumper first-half.
Sales and earnings soared as the company benefited from the post-COVID recovery.
While BHP was higher, its iron ore peers were not. Fortescue fell two per cent to $22.16. Rio Tinto dropped one per cent to $119.66.
Among the major banks, ANZ, the Commonwealth and NAB each lost less than one per cent. Westpac fared worst and lost two per cent to $23.34.
The Australian dollar was buying 71.33 US cents at 1200 AEDT, higher than 71.19 US cents at Monday’s close.