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Local shares are rising ahead of the release of tonight’s federal budget and now higher for seven of the last eight sessions. The ASX 200 is lifting by 20pts or 0.33% to 6105 points, around its best levels since early February this year.
There is quite an even split between sectors in the red and in the black. Financials are pushing the market higher with three of the four major banks are higher around 1% with National Bank (NAB) lagging the others with a loss of 0.1%. Macquarie Group (MQG) shares continue to trade at all-time highs as the investment bank has received several broker upgrades after launching a $600 million hybrid security offer yesterday. MQG is trading 1.6% higher towards lunch. Healthcare stocks are also assisting with blood products maker, CSL Ltd (CSL) rising 1.4% and private health operator, Healthscope (HSO) is up 3% on continuing takeover talks with a property firm, Northwest Healthcare REIT acquiring a 10% stake in HSO at $2.39.
Weakness is being led by the telco sector with Telstra (TLS) slipping 1% so far in the session, energy stocks are mixed despite a rise in crude oil overnight. US President Donald Trump will announce his plans to impose possible US sanctions on Iran which could impact global oil supplies. Oil Search has lifted 0.7% while Origin Energy (ORG) and Woodside (WPL) have both dropped around 0.9%.
In company news, under-fire wealth management firm, AMP Ltd (AMP) has announced that a further three non-executive directors will be stepping down from its board. AMP shares are flat today but have fallen ~20% in 2018. Asset Manager, Platinum Asset Management (PTM) shares are climbing 9% on several broker upgrades following a lift in its Funds under management (FUM) to $28 billion for the month of April.
Baby Bunting (BBN) shares are sliding 4.4% as the baby goods retailer announced a profit downgrade. BBN now expects FY18 earnings (EBITDA) between $18 and $20 million, down from a previously forecast $23 million. Margins and sales growth have been affected by two competitors going into administration with competitors liquidating stock.
Weekly consumer confidence has risen while retail sales have come in weaker than expected for the March quarter and month. Sales were flat for the month vs a 0.2% gain and lifted 0.2% for the quarter vs an expected 0.6% rise. The Aussie dollar was trading at US75.22c before the retails sales release and fell below US75c directly after to 74.98, where it currently trades. So far, 1.45B units have been traded worth $2.1B with 588 stocks higher, 460 lower and 376 unchanged.
Published by CommSec