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After two straight weeks of gains, Aussie shares are slipping for the first time in three sessions, with the ASX 200 index down 0.5 per cent or 35pts to 6758. While the market is down today, the index rose by almost twice as much on Friday. Investors and traders are remaining a touch cautious as the index closes in on all-time highs.

U.S. market hit another record high on Friday thanks to some trade optimism. Comments from a U.S. official (Commerce Secretary) that there is a very high probability of a phase 1 trade deal with China, seemed to boost American equities. Despite the excitement, the market remains sensitive and susceptible to a pullback on negative trade news.

With the exception of consumer discretionary companies, all sectors are in negative territory at lunch.

Some of the biggest movers today are stocks on the receiving end of broker upgrades or downgrades. This includes Aristocrat (ALL), Coca-Cola (CCL), Qantas (QAN), Virgin Australia (VAH) and BlueScope (BSL).

BlueScope (BSL) is the only loser among the group listed above. The group received two broker downgrades today. Both are cautious about the recent 8-10 per cent surge in steel prices since late October. BSL shares have outperformed the broader market by ~7 per cent Year-to-Date.

Aristocrat Leisure (ALL) is up by 2.3 per cent after a major broker said it anticipates the poker machine maker’s shares to lift by as much as 20 per cent from current prices.

Cochlear (COH) received FDA clearance to start selling a new hearing implant technology in the U.S. from 2H20. COH hopes this will boost its sales, with the number of implants sold stagnating in recent times.

Appen (APX) is up 8 per cent after the language technology company upgraded its FY19 earnings guidance thanks to a bigger lift in revenues. APX now expects to make between $96- $99m in EBITDA, compared to its prior forecast of $85-$90m.

Smartgroup (SIQ) is down 16 per cent following an earnings update and the resignation of its long time CEO (appointed in 2002). The salary packaging company expects NPAT ~$81m due in February which is largely in-line with the prior year’s result.

1.5bn shares have changed hands so far today worth $1.9bn. 412 stocks are up, 607 are down and 328 are unchanged.

Published by CommSec