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The Aussie market is in decline for a third successive session at lunch on Friday. The ASX 200 is down 23 points or 0.33% to 6,723 around midday but has recovered from its earlier lows where the index was down roughly 1.1% or 72 points.

This follows Wall Street lower as investors remain wary of rising bond yields and rate expectations despite reassurances from US Fed Reserve chair Jerome Powell’s dovish stance on rates following the conclusion of the Fed’s monthly meeting yesterday.

Despite easing from session lows, losses are still across most sectors. Leading declines is the energy sector as global oil prices slumped ~7% in overnight trade on concerns over short-term demand as COVID-19 cases rise and the vaccine rollout slows in parts of the world, including Europe. Local producers like Woodside (WPL) and Santos (STO) are down 2.1% and 2.5% each.

Materials and technology are also major laggards with big names like BHP Group (BHP) and Afterpay (APT) down between 1-2%, but gains for financials and utilities are helping erase some losses. A number of the big 4 lenders are now in positive territory with ANZ Bank (ANZ) leading improvements, rising 0.8%. Westpac (WBC) is 0.6% higher with National Bank (NAB) adding 0.3%. The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) is underperforming its peers with a 0.3% fall.

In company news, Sydney Airport (SYD) has released its February passenger traffic numbers with international passenger numbers still 97.5% lower on the same time last year, 27,000 compared to 1.1 million, but domestic passenger numbers are improving. While the 596,000 of domestic passengers is still down 70% on the same time last year, it has improved as all interstate borders were open to travel late in the month. SYD is down 1.3%

AGL Energy (AGL) is ahead by 2.2% as it announced a 5- year electricity contract with an aluminium smelter in Portland, Victoria run by Alcoa to start from August 1.

The Aussie dollar has given back a fair chunk of yesterday’s gains and is back below 78 US cents, buying 77.43 US cents, and also falling on today’s underwhelming preliminary 1.1% fall in February retail sales reading (0.6% growth was expected).

Published by CommSec