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Australian Market Modestly Lower

The Australian stock market is modestly lower on Thursday, extending the losses in the previous two sessions, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 just above the 7,300 level, following the broadly negative cues overnight from Wall Street, as traders are worried over inflation and looming interest rate hikes after U.S. Treasury yields hit fresh two-year highs amid Fed rate hike expectations.

Trades also remain concerned about the sharp spike in domestic new coronavirus infections, though off record highs. New South Wales records 30,825 new cases and 25 deaths on Wednesday. Victoria reported 21,966 new cases and 15 deaths, Queensland recorded 16,812 new cases and nine deaths, and ACT reported 892 new cases.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 17.60 points or 0.24 percent to 7,314.90, after hitting a low of 7,302.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 15.40 points or 0.20 percent to 7,641.20. Australian markets ended significantly lower on Wednesday.

Among major miners, BHP Group is gaining almost 3 percent, OZ Minerals is up almost 2 percent and Mineral Resources is rising 3.5 percent, while Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are advancing 2.5 percent each.

Oil stocks are mostly higher. Woodside Petroleum is edging up 0.2 percent and Origin Energy is gaining almost 2 percent, while Beach Energy is edging down 0.3 percent. Santos is flat.

Among the big four banks, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank are losing 1.5 percent each, while ANZ Banking is edging down 0.3 percent and Westpac is down almost 1 percent.

In the tech space, Xero is losing more than 1 percent, Appen is slipping almost 2 percent, WiseTech Global is down more than 1 percent and Zip is declining more than 2 percent.

Gold miners are all strongly higher as gold prices spiked overnight. Newcrest Mining and Resolute Mining are gaining more than 4 percent each, while Northern Star Resources is surging more than 8 percent, Evolution Mining is soaring more than 9 percent and Gold Road Resources is advancing more than 5 percent.

In economic news, the unemployment rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 4.2 percent in December, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday - beating handily expectations for 4.5 percent and down from 4.6 percent in November. The participation rate was 66.1 percent - unchanged from the previous month but shy of expectations for 66.2 percent.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.724 on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks were unable to hold on to early gains on Wednesday, bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line before finishing in the red for the second straight session.

For the day, the Dow tumbled 339.82 points or 0.96 percent to finish at 35,028.65, while the NASDAQ dropped 166.64 points or 1.15 percent to close at 14,340.25 and the S&P 500 sank 44.35 points or 0.97 percent to end at 4.532.76.

Meanwhile, the major European markets moved higher on the day. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index added 0.35 percent, while the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.24 percent and 0.55 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices continued their recent upward surge on Wednesday, rising for the fifth straight day to a fresh seven-year high following supply issues in the Middle East. West Texas Intermediate for February contract jumped $1.22 or 1.43 percent to $86.65 per barrel.

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