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Local shares have given up all of Tuesday’s gains early on Wednesday with the ASX 200 (XJO) continuing to ease as tensions rise between the US and China. President Trump has threatened further tariff hikes if no deal is struck between the two economic superpowers.

The protests in Hong Kong are also proving to be a sore point between the two nations with US Vice President Mike Pence saying a trade deal will be hard if China uses violence on protestors, while the US Senate unanimously passed a “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act”.

The benchmark index is on track for its worst session, down 85 points or 1.24%, since October 3 this year, where the index fell 2.2% on global slowdown concerns. Losses are across nearly every sector with only the consumer discretionary sector improving. The major drags are coming from heavyweight financials, materials and health.

While all the four major banks are down at least 1%, Westpac (WBC) is performing worst as it slides 2.3% as Australia’s second largest bank in market capitalisation faces civil proceedings by financial crimes regulator AUSTRAC for allegedly breaching Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) laws.

Rio Tinto (RIO) is falling 1.5% as it also faces legal proceedings in Mongolia around its Oyu Tolgoi, gold and copper mine. Another major decliner has been Saracen Minerals (SAR), which has resumed from a 2 day trading halt. The gold miner confirmed it has completed a capital raise of $701 million as part of its funding for its recently announced acquisition of a 50% stake for a gold mine in WA. SAR shares are 8.4% weaker.

ALS Limited (ALQ) is one of the standouts, jumping 6.5% on the release of its first half results. Net profit for the industrials company rose 60% to $135.6 million while underlying net profit exceeded the company’s own guidance. Gaming company, Aristocrat Leisure (ALL) is 6% higher after also releasing profit results for full year 2019. ALL, which makes most of its money in the US, saw profit lift 29% to $699 million.

The Aussie dollar is buying 68.15 US cents after earlier highs of 68.32 US cents during US trade. So far, 1.3b units have traded worth $2.4b with 419 stocks higher, 545 weaker and 350 unchanged.

Published by CommSec