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S&P/ASX 200 (XJO) morning report – ASX 200 to open higher

The Santa Rally looks set to continue on Thursday with futures over the S&P/ASX 200 (ASX: XJO) pointing to a positive open. Here’s what you need to know.

BNPL still a focus

The ASX 200 finished 0.7% higher on Wednesday after a positive overseas lead, with every sector finishing higher. Attention once again turned to the technology sector, with BNPL players Afterpay (ASX: APT) and Zip Co (ASX: Z1P) finishing 4.2% and 6.7%, higher.

While these companies have been flagged as Australia’s technology leaders, the true nature of their underlying businesses is clearly influenced by retail and consumer spending more than anything else. This was a topic we covered today in Wattle Partner’s Market Thinker’s series, speaking with Tim Toohey, Head of Macro and Strategy at Yarra Capital.

Toohey was quite bullish on the prospects of a consumer-led recovery in Australia highlighting the spike in the ‘savings rate’ from a long-term average of around 3% to 20% today. If this normalises at all, 2021 may be a bumper year for the Australian economy.

All the action was in the financial sector on Wednesday, with Commonwealth Bank’s (ASX: CBA) Aussie Home Loans agreeing to merge with home loan platform Lendi. CBA will retain a 45% stake in the business and receive a $105 million dividend.

Rex, Telstra, China

Telecommunications rollup group Uniti Wireless (ASX: UWL), which is backed by members of the former M2 Telecommunications team, announced the acquisition of Telstra’s (ASX: TLS) South Brisbane Exchange and Velocity Fibre to the Node network for $140 million. This appears to be a win for both parties, TLS further simplifying it’s business but reducing its capex expenditure, and UWL further growing its footprint by another 50,000 premises.

It was good news and bad news for Regional Express Holdings (ASX: REX) with the company announcing it had received approval to commence high capacity airline operations, meaning it is now legally allowed to run domestic flights in competition with Virgin and Qantas. In bad news, REX received a slap on the wrist from ASIC for failing to disclose these intentions to the market back in May when they were released to the press. The punishment is that a full rather than shortened prospectus will be required for their planned capital raising; shares finished 8% higher on the news.

Federal Reserve holds course, US markets higher, tech war emerging

US markets continue to overcome a lack of further stimulus, with large-cap tech names in favour once again, the Nasdaq adding 0.5% and the S&P500 0.2% overnight.

Most support came from the Federal Reserve, with the central bank committing to maintaining its bond-buying or quantitative easing program at $120 billion per month for the foreseeable future. The policy is targeted at pressure banks to increase lending by ‘penalising’ them with lower rates on the excess capital. For comparison, Australia’s program is just $20 billion per month.

US retail sales disappointed reflecting the real risk of economic lockdowns, falling 1.1% in November despite the growing popularity of the Black Friday sales; restaurants were among the hardest hit. At a stock-specific level, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) has launched a PR onslaught against Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) challenging the phone maker’s decision to allow its users to opt-out of the targeted advertising that is so important to their revenue and that of their customers. The challenge of ESG or Environmental, Social and Governance or ESG-focused investing was reiterated overnight after one of the world’s largest oil companies, BP Plc (LON: BP) announced the acquisition of Finite Carbon the largest carbon offset developer in America.

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Disclosure: At the time of publishing, Drew does not have a financial or commercial interest in any of the companies mentioned.

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