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Aussie shares are losing ground for a second day, with the ASX 200 falling by 1.22 per cent to 5,400.1 at lunch. While this is enough to wipe out most of this week’s gains, the index has bounced off the lows of the session, when the market was down by as much as 2.25 per cent in the first 30 minutes of trade. The latest March labour market report was above consensus, which seemed to help push stocks higher despite this being mainly because of an earlier survey period.

At 11:30am AEST, the Bureau of Statistics released its latest employment report. In March, 5,900 jobs were added (Bloomberg survey -30,000) and the unemployment rate only ticked up from 5.1 per cent to 5.2 per cent (Bloomberg survey ~5.4 per cent). It is important to note, that yesterday the ABS said it conducted the surveys of around 25,000 households between 1-14 March. This was ahead of the 20 March travel ban, the social distancing requirements which kicked in on 21 March and the widespread shutdowns on 23 March. That was the main reason these figures were above expectations as it was previously thought the surveys would be carried out between 8-22 March. Unemployment is likely to rise substantially in coming months.

Wall Street provided a weak lead overnight, with the S&P 500 slumping by 2.2 per cent following dreadful monthly economic data and softer quarterly results from major banks like Citigroup and Bank of

At lunch, defensive Consumer Staples and the Healthcare sector are the only improvers. Westpac (WBC) and National Australia Bank (NAB) are both leading the banks lower, BHP and South32 (S32) are among the worst of the miners and retailers like Myer (MYR), Harvey Norman (HVN), JB Hi-Fi (JBH) and Adairs (ADH) are down by as much as 5 per cent.

Virgin Australia (VAH) has requested the voluntary suspension of its shares for up to seven days as it is yet to finalise financing discussions.

Transurban (TCL) said that average daily traffic fell by 4.8 per cent on its toll roads in the March quarter as more people work from home. Sydney traffic fell by 5.2 per cent, Melbourne declined by 6.7 per cent and Brisbane by 2.2 per cent. TCL is down 2 per cent.

Woodside (WPL) delivered a 12 per cent lift in March quarter production to 24.2 MMboe (vs 1Q19) despite the impact of Cyclone Damien in WA (Feb) and lower energy prices due to COVID-19.

Bendigo & Adelaide Bank (BEN) has withdrawn its 2H20 financial outlook commentary due to the effects of COVID-19 which has made forecasting challenging for many companies.

Crown (CWN) said it has ‘progressively stood down…approximately 95 per cent or over 11,500’ of its workforce. Its CEO and some other executives have taken a 20 per cent cut to pay until 30 June 2020. CWN will pay eligible investors an interim dividend tomorrow.

2.6bn shares have changed hands so far, worth a heavy $4.2bn. 355 stocks are up, 750 down and 263 are unchanged.

Published by CommSec