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The Australian sharemarket is a touch higher at lunch, with the ASX 200 bouncing back from a soft start, lifting by just 0.05 per cent to 7,064.5. While the ASX is trading normally today, volumes are light so far with the ANZAC day public holiday observed in five states and territories.

The market remains just ~2 per cent away from a record high and with just four full trading days left in April, is currently having its best month of 2021. The ASX 200 will lift for an eighth straight month as long as the market can avoid a 3.9 per cent tumble this week.

Iron ore miners and banks are some of the main contributors to the market’s gains at lunch. The iron ore price rose by 0.8 per cent to US$185.10 per tonne. Global steel output rose by 15 per cent in March on a year earlier, marking eight consecutive months of growth and the strongest increase since June 2010. China purchased just under 80 per cent of Australia’s iron ore shipments over the past 12 months.

Nib (NHF) is up 12 per cent and has hit a three-month high following a business update this morning. The health insurer reinstated its market guidance, which it had paused due to COVID-19. NHF said its core health insurance business in Australia ‘is performing well’, with a near 4 per cent lift in policyholders, while claims continue to be ‘lower than expected’.

Westpac (WBC) has flagged a $282m hit to its 1H21 cash profits which are due next Monday. WBC said this is primarily due to $220m in provisions for additional customer refunds and associated costs, together with $115m in software write-downs. The provisions have been partly offset by the revaluation of its investment in Coinbase. The cryptocurrency exchange made its US market debut recently.

McGrath (MEA) is up 11 per cent after flagging a lift in underlying EBITDA of between $16.5-$17.5m in FY21. This compares to a $3.7m profit a year earlier. MEA has benefitted from the recent property boom.

Sigma Healthcare (SIG) is down 2 per cent after the resignation of its CEO and Managing Director Mark Hooper. Mr Hooper is expected to remain in the role until October 2021.

A2 Milk (A2M) is down another 2.4 per cent, hitting a fresh three-year low in the process. The infant formula maker fell by 10 per cent last week.

This week Apple, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Tesla are set to post their quarterly results. Combined these companies are ~4 ½ times the size of the whole Australian sharemarket. It will be another big week for quarterly updates locally; with Fortescue (FMG), South32 (S32), Newcrest (NCM), Northern Star (NST), Woolworths (WOW), Coles (COL) and ResMed (RMD) just some of the companies set to post updates. An update on inflation will be a highlight on the economic front this Wednesday while a key monthly OPEC meeting could influence oil prices mid-week.

2.3bn shares have changed hands worth a light $2bn, with 601 stocks up, 651 down and 406 unchanged.

Published by CommSec