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Aussie shares have kicked off the holiday-shortened trading week higher, with the ASX 200 lifting by 155 pts or 3 per cent to 5224. It’s been an impressive couple of hours of trade considering the US market fell by close to 2 per cent on Friday and data on the American labour market continued to disappoint. We’re also coming off the back of the best weekly performance for our market since December 2011. The ASX 200 rose by 4.65 per cent last week.

On Friday night, the latest non-farm payrolls report was released. It highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on the US economy. 701,000 jobs were lost in March (seven times worse than economist forecasts). Understandably, many of those job losses were in hospitality, retail and leisure. This was the first fall in jobs in 114 months and the biggest monthly decline in 11 years. The unemployment rate rose from 3.5 per cent to 4.4 per cent; the biggest percentage lift since 1975.

The worst is likely yet to come however, with the non-farms not capturing job losses over the second half of the month. Following recent weekly data, there have been 10 million Americans who have applied for unemployment benefits over the past two weeks alone. The next update on Australia’s labour market will be released next Thursday.

All sectors are improving at lunch, with gains in excess of 3 per cent for Energy, Health Care, Technology and Property Trusts. The price of oil rose by 11.9 per cent or $3.02 to US$28.34 overnight, taking the gains in two sessions to 40 per cent.

More talk of a potential cut to global oil production, which President Trump flagged last week has been behind the rally. Despite the solid two-day gain, oil prices hit 18-year lows early last week. A key meeting of major oil producing nations has been postponed from today to Thursday. Energy stocks are mostly higher. Santos (STO) is up 6 per cent, Woodside (WPL) is up 3 per cent and Origin (ORG) is up 2 per cent.

Flight Centre (FLT) has requested an extension to its voluntary suspension from the market. The travel agent is raising $700m from investors in a capital raising and has managed to tap its lenders for access to an additional $200m in cash. FLT shares have slumped by 78 per cent Year-to-Date.

Oil Search (OSH) and plumbing products supplier, Reece (REH) are both in a trading halt as they tap investors for a capital injection.

Caltex (CTX) is bringing forward the planned shutdown of its Lytton refinery to May 2020. It expects to keep the site shut until margin conditions have sufficiently recovered. SEEK (SEK) is deferring its next dividend to 23 July (was scheduled to pay a 13c dividend this Thursday).

1.6bn shares have changed hands so far worth $2.7bn. 749 stocks are up, 301 down and 287 are unchanged.

Published by CommSec