The S&P/ASX 200 (ASX: XJO) is expected to fall when the market opens this morning according to the latest SPI futures. Here’s what’s making headlines.
ASX 200 lower on bond rates, Crown to face Royal Commission
The ASX 200 finished 0.2% lower to start the week on a mixed day for the market, with resources and materials leading the way adding 2.6% ahead of a bumper dividend season. Most of the weakness came from the healthcare and IT sectors as the 10-year bond yield moved past 1.5%.
Bank of Queensland Limited (ASX: BOQ), on the other hand, announced its intention to purchase the industry super fund-owned ME Bank for $1.325 billion, becoming an $88 billion bank. The deal will be funded via a 1 for 3.34 share placement at $7.35, a 9.3% discount.
After forecasting a year without profit growth, Macquarie Group Ltd (ASX: MQG) updated expectations on Monday on the back of an unexpected windfall from the power outages and snowfall in Texas. Macquarie’s investments include the physical movement of gas along major pipelines with volumes set to benefit due to diversions from its other assets towards the state; profit is expected to be 5–10% above the previous year.
Berry, tomato and avocado producer Costa Group Holdings Ltd (ASX: CGC) jumped 13.0% after reporting an 11.2% increase in revenue that resulted in a 108.4% increase in net profit to $59.4 million. The company appears to be regaining the trust of investors after a difficult few years, with growth in its sales of avocadoes and citrus operations, which were 13% and 12% higher, the highlights.
Building boom benefits Reliance and BlueScope, Lendlease challenges continue
The pandemic-induced ban on travel has seemingly created a building and home renovation boom with both Reliance Worldwide Corporation Ltd (ASX: RWC) and BlueScope Steel Limited (ASX: BSL) key beneficiaries.
Reliance delivered a record dividend on the back of a 12.8% increase in revenue to $642.4 million. The company reported strong sales growth across all key markets including the US (22%), Asia Pacific (14%) and Europe (10%), resulting in an 82.4% increase in profit to $91.4 million. Despite the result being a beat on expectations, the Reliance share price fell 2.5% on the news after a circa 20% run-up in the weeks prior.
Management of BlueScope Steel announced that order and despatch rates for its inputs into key construction materials remained robust in January, continuing the 2020 trend. BlueScope reported a 78% increase in profit to $330.3 million despite sales falling 1% to $5.8 billion due to the stronger AUD. The dividend was maintained at the previous year level of 6 cents per share, with the earnings beat sending the BlueScope share price 2.6% higher.
With the positives come the negatives. As building materials improved, the builders and contractors themselves appear to be struggling, Lendlease Group (ASX: LLC) dropping 1.3% after cutting its dividend by 50% to 15 cents per share. The company was hit hard by lockdowns across every key market, with revenue falling 29.6% but showing signs of stabilisation in the second half. With a growing number of major projects delayed, and a portfolio including retail and apartments to be sold, the short-term appears difficult.
Nasdaq hits three week low, copper price hits nine-year high
US markets continue to weaken, driven primarily by concerns over the valuation of mega-cap tech stocks and those that have benefitted most from ever-lower interest rates.
So-called long duration assets are at risk of a correction should the bond rate continue to move higher in the coming months, however, it seems like central banks will continue to pursue money printing policies to soften the blow.
The Nasdaq fell 2.5% and the S&P 500 finished down 0.8%, somewhat cushioned by a rally in banking and energy stocks.
Experts are now predicting the oil price to move back towards US$70 per barrel in 2021 from their current levels around US$64 as supply issues combine with a vaccine-led economic recovery.
Copper, which is seen as a leading indicator for the economy, has reached a nine-year high of US$9,000 with its use in everything from electric vehicles to construction turning ever more positive.