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Local shares are off to a stronger start for a second consecutive session with the ASX 200 improving by 43 points or 0.7% to 6312 points towards lunch. The Aussie market received a decent lead in from Wall Street with news of a preliminary trade agreement between Mexico & the US as a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) buoying investor sentiment.
Back home, gains are being primarily driven by financials and healthcare. The big four banks continue to recoup losses from the previous week with gains of at least 1.2%. Westpac (WBC) is the standout, lifting 1.9%. CSL and Resmed (RMD) are boosting the healthcare sector with advances of 1% and 1.9% respectively.
Telcos are the main drag on the market with losses for Telstra (TLS) and Vocus (VOC) both down more than 1% while Hutchison Telecom (HTA) is down 10% following a sharp increase in the stock price last week on proposed merger talks for Vodafone Australia (50% owned by HTA) and TPG Telecom. The largest decline is in Speedcast International (SDA), which is slumping 31%. The satellite communications and solutions provider announced an underwhelming HY18 results along with news it is acquiring Globecomm for US$135 million.
In company news, Blackmores (BKL) has jumped 10% on a strong FY18 result. The vitamin maker saw net profit lift 19% to $70 million with revenue improving by 9% to $601.1 million on strong sales in China and the Asian region. BKL has also acquired the weight loss IMPROMY brand for $9 million. Specialty Fashion House (SFH) is up 9% after selling its underperforming fashion labels including Katies & Rivers to Noni B. Its sole brand, City Chic lifted revenue and comparable sales growth over the FY18 period.
Caltex (CTX) is sliding 6.7% on first half earnings figures, recording a 1% lift in its replacement cost net profit to $296 million. Both refinery and fuel margins were squeezed over the half mainly due to a lag between rising crude oil prices and product prices. Caltex is also exploring options to sell part of its convenience retail stores (Star Mart etc).
According to an ANZ Roy Morgan survey, weekly confidence lifted 2.1% to 116.5 points last week and the Aussie dollar is buying 73.4 US cents. So far,1.6B units have traded worth $2.1B with 554 stocks are higher with 431 lower and 366 unchanged.
Published by James Tao – Analyst (Author), CommSec