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The Aussie market is erasing a healthy chunk of Tuesday’s improvements, with the ASX 200 down 0.54 per cent to 6,802.3. The equity market is being held back partly by profit taking from major mining stocks like BHP, Rio Tinto (RIO), Fortescue Metals (FMG) and gold producers, which all rose on Monday and Tuesday. A number of stocks trading ex-dividend are also weighing, including Telstra, Downer, AGL, Iress and Fletcher Building.

Last night, US markets staged an impressive recovery, closing up 0.1 per cent after being down as much as 1.8 per cent at one stage. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell made an attempt to settle nerves about higher inflation, essentially reiterating the US central bank’s intention to continue supporting the American economy for an extended period and that “…the economy is a long way from our employment and inflation goals.”

It’s been another busy day for earnings, with close to 20 companies posting their latest results. Blackmores (BKL) posted a modest 3.7 per cent lift in net profit to $18.9m and revenue by 3.1 per cent over the first half of the year. The vitamin group has also reinstated its dividend for the first time since August 2019. BKL has been impacted by the significant drop in international travellers and students together with reduced foot traffic. It warned that a lack of Chinese tourists will hurt revenues through to June. BKL shares are still up 10 per cent.

Sydney Airport (SYD) posted a $145.6m loss for the year and no dividend, following a 75 per cent slump in passenger numbers due to COVID travel restrictions. SYD shares have surged by 11 per cent this week following the rollout of the COVID vaccine. Scentre (SCG) – which owns and operates Westfield shopping centres in Australia and New Zealand – reported a $3.7bn loss for the year. This was mainly due to a $4.2bn reduction in the value of its property portfolio. SCG flagged its intention to grow dividend payments in coming years.

Woolworths (WOW) posted an 8 per cent lift in half year sales and 15.9 per cent surge in underlying profit to $1.14bn between July and December. The result was partly driven by people staying at home longer, which has helped deliver double-digit growth at Big W, its supermarkets and drinks divisions. Online sales rose by 78 per cent. WOW has largely mirrored Coles’ comments made last week that sales are likely to drop from March to June as restrictions continue to ease.

Wages grew by 0.6 per cent over past quarter according to the latest Wage Price Index and just 1.4 per cent over the past year. While the quarterly lift was above market expectations, the growth in wages over the year is still the slowest on record and compares to the long-term average of 3.1 per cent.

4bn shares have changed hands so far, worth $3.3bn. 518 stocks are up, 764 down and 366 are flat.

Published by CommSec