The ASX 200 (XJO) today – latest news from the Australian share market

The S&P/ASX 200 (ASX: XJO) is expected to trade higher today with the Sydney Futures Exchange pointing to a positive open. Right now, the ASX 200 is priced 0.17% from its 52-week high of 7024.4.

Making investment headlines today is Challenger Ltd (ASX:CGF), Macquarie Group Ltd (ASX:MQG) and Northern Star Resources Ltd (ASX:NST).

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Important ASX 200 News Today

1. Challenger Ltd

Challenger is Australia’s largest provider of ‘annuities’, which are financial products typically sold to retirees who seek reliable income. Challenger was established in the mid-’80s and listed on the ASX in 1987.

Australia’s largest retiree annuities provider this morning released its half-year financial report showing a 10% increase in funds under management (FUM) to $86 billion, and an interim dividend of 17.5 cents per share, the same as last year.

Challenger CEO Richard Howes said the company is on track to meet its 2020 full financial year ‘normalised’ before-tax profit goal of between $500 million and $550 million. In the first half, Challenger delivered a before-tax profit of $279 million, up 3%.

“The ongoing execution of our carefully planned strategy, together with our response to industry disruption has put Challenger in a good position to optimise performance in the current environment,” Howes said in the company’s ASX release. More to come.

2. Macquarie Group Ltd

Macquarie Group is Australia’s largest investment bank with operations spread throughout North America, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Australia. Unlike a traditional ‘retail’ bank, like most investment banks Macquarie makes a large chunk of its profit by operating in the investment markets and managing ‘assets’ for individuals and organisations. As of 2019, Macquarie had reported a profit for 50 years in a row.

Macquarie provided an operational update or briefing to investors today saying that trading conditions “were satisfactory” in the December (3Q20) quarter.

Given it releases its periodic reports at a different time of year to most companies, Macquarie was still able to provide a short update on its key business lines today.

In the bank’s “annuity-style” businesses, which includes Macquarie asset management and vanilla banking products, the company said the profit contribution result was up on the same period a year earlier.

Meanwhile, across the hallway, Macquarie’s market-facing businesses reported a combined net profit contribution which was “significantly down” on the same quarter from 2019. The bank put the result down to meaningfully lower investment-related income from its Macquarie Capital business.

Looking ahead, the company expects to report a full-year result slightly down on last year but CEO Shemara Wikramanayake said the bank remains “well positioned” to deliver superior performance over the medium term.

3. Northern Star Resources Ltd

Northern Star Resources (NST) is one of Australia’s largest gold miners, with operations in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Alaska. NST claims to have tier-1 world-class mining projects in very promising regions thanks to their low sovereign risk.

Today, Australian and global gold miners will be watching NST after the West Australian mining middleweight delivered its half-year financial report to investors, showing revenue up 31% to $826 million and a net profit result of $127 million, up 54%.

NST declared a dividend of 7.5 cents per share fully franked.

“The combination of these earnings, cashflows and overall returns is the result of our highly disciplined approach to capital investment, whether it be through exploration, development or acquisition,” Northern Star Resources’ CEO Bill Beament said.

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