Australian Market Modestly Higher

The Australian stock market is modestly higher after giving up some of the initial sharp gains in choppy trading on Friday, recouping some of the sharp losses in the previous four sessions, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 falling below the 6,900 level, following the broadly negative cues overnight from Wall Street, as traders picked up stocks at a bargain following the recent sell-off. Traders are also digesting upbeat fourth quarter US GDP data.

Meanwhile, traders remain concerned over the domestic Covid-19 cases, though on a decline. New South Wales reported 13,333 new cases and 35 deaths on Thursday and Victoria also reported 12,755 new cases and 39 deaths. Queensland recorded 9,974 new cases and 18 deaths, ACT reported 734 new cases and Tasmania reported 584 new cases.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 55.60 points or 0.81 percent to 6,893.90, after touching a high of 6,966.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 56.40 points or 0.79 percent to 7,170.90. Australian markets ended sharply lower on Thursday.

Among major miners, Rio Tinto is gaining almost 3 percent, BHP Group is adding more than 2 percent and Fortescue Metals is advancing more than 1 percent, while Mineral Resources is slipping more than 1 percent and OZ Minerals is sliding more than 3 percent.

Oil stocks are mixed. Santos is gaining almost 1 percent, while Beach energy is declining more than 1 percent and Origin Energy is edging down 0.2 percent. Woodside Petroleum is flat.

Among tech stocks, Appen and Xero are edging up 0.3 percent each, while Zip and WiseTech Global are declining almost 2 percent each.

Among the big four banks, National Australia Bank is declining almost 2 percent, while Commonwealth Bank and ANZ Banking are losing more than 1 percent each. Westpac is flat.

Gold miners are lower. Evolution Mining is losing more than 2 percent, Northern Star Resources is declining almost 3 percent and Gold Road Resources is down 2.5 percent. Resolute Mining is flat. Newcrest Mining is plunging almost 7 percent after it flagged weather issues and Omicron-led headwinds at its Lihir mine.

In economic news, final demand producer prices were up 1.3 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2021, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Friday, accelerating from 1.1 percent in the previous three months. On a yearly basis, producer prices were up 3.7 percent, up from 2.9 percent in the three months prior.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.704 on Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks showed a substantial downturn over the course of the trading day on Thursday after moving sharply higher early in the session. The volatility on the day extended the rollercoaster ride the major averages have been on throughout the week.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped as much as 1.7 percent in early trading but ended the day down 189.34 points or 1.4 percent at 13,352.78. The S&P 500 also slid 23.42 points or 0.5 percent to 4,326.51 after surging as much as 1.8 percent. The narrower Dow posted a more modest loss, edging down 7.31 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 34,160.78.

Meanwhile, the major European markets moved to the upside after seeing early weakness. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index jumped by 1.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index rose by 0.6 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices retreated Thursday as the dollar climbed after the Fed signaled that it would start raising interest rates in March. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for March ended lower by $0.74 or 0.9 percent at $86.61 a barrel.

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