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S&P/ASX 200 today – VOC, CLW & ARG shares in focus

The S&P/ASX 200 (ASX: XJO) is set to fall when the market opens on Tuesday according to the latest SPI futures. Here’s what’s making headlines.

ASX 200 starts the week on positive footing, Vocus in play again

The ASX 200 started the week the same way it finished, adding 0.6% on Monday supported by a broad-based rally covering most sectors. Materials and discretionary retailers were the biggest beneficiaries of the risk-on mood, with BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP) and Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES) finishing 2.4% and 1.0% higher, respectively.

The biggest driver appears to be the ‘reflationary’ trade, referring to the Australian and global economy returning to pre-crisis levels of activity. The biggest beneficiaries in this environment tend to be commodities and energy, both of which are major inputs into activities including construction and travel.

On the flipside, the utilities and property or A-REIT sectors were sold off after the 10-year bond rate reached 1.26%, that being the highest since March 2020. These sectors are traditionally seen as ‘bond proxies’ due to their consistent income, but when investors can buy lower-risk government bonds yielding higher amounts, they tend to fall out of favour.

Merger and acquisition activity picked up once again with telecommunications network owner Vocus Group Ltd (ASX: VOC) receiving an unexpected bid from Macquarie Group’s (ASX: MQG) Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Asset (MIRA) division. The offer values the company at $3.4 billion, a 25% premium to the last traded price and a long-awaited opportunity for patient investors. The Vocus share price finished 12.8% higher on the news and whilst some are predicting a bidding war for this ‘modern infrastructure’ asset, there are few guarantees in this market.

Charter Hall REIT increases dividend, Treasury Wine continues to tank

The Charter Hall Long WALE REIT (ASX: CLW), with WALE referring to Weighted Average Lease Expiry, delivered a strong operating result for the first half of the financial year, reporting a 3.6% increase in earnings and an identical increase in the distribution to 14.5 cents per share. The trust, which owns service stations, offices and telecommunications assets worth $4.5 billion, increased the value of its underlying portfolio by 5.1% from depressed 30 June levels. Management reiterated guidance for a 2.8% increase in earnings, primarily rent, for the full year, evidencing the quality of its tenants and the resilient nature of these assets.

Argo Investments Limited (ASX: ARG) cut its dividend by 12.5% to just 14 cents per share after net profit of the trust fell 43% in the first half to $67.4 million. The key driver was widespread dividend cuts from its key holdings, which include Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA), seeing income drop from $124.3 mill to $73.9 million. Management remains hopeful of a quick return to dividend payments during the reporting season; shares added 2.5% on the report. The Argo share price remains significantly higher, $8.94 than the value of its underlying holdings, $8.01, suggesting investors value the franking credits on the balance sheet.

Meanwhile, Treasury Wine Estates Ltd (ASX: TWE) continued to punish investors seeking global exposure via ASX companies, falling 11.8% after announcing it was not considering a spin-out of the Penfold’s brand, despite speculation over the weekend.

Triple highs, Tesla buys Bitcoin

The three key US markets touched intra-day trading highs on Monday, the sixth-straight day of positive returns. The Nasdaq continues to lead the way, up 1.0%, with the S&P 500 and Dow Jones delivering gains of 0.7% and 0.8%, respectively.

Earnings season continues en masse this week and has been quite positive thus far, with 57% of companies reporting and signs the ‘earnings recession’ is over.

Falling COVID-19 cases, due to the rollout of the vaccine, saw the price of oil reach US$60, suggesting an economic recovery is underway with inflation likely lying ahead.

Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the company had purchased US$1.5 billion of Bitcoin, sending the cryptocurrency to an all-time high. Tesla has reported it will accept Bitcoin as payment for its products in the coming years.

Finally, Biden’s stimulus package appears likely to be passed in the coming weeks, offering additional support to airlines, airports and train systems among others.

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

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Wattle Partners is a financial advice firm, servicing clients around Australia, specialising in retirement planning (pre and post retirement). 

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