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Moribund day on Monday, but a green finish

There were tepid gains for the Australian indices on Monday, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 (INDEXASX: XJO) index ending the session 4.1 points to the good, at 7,199, while the broader All Ordinaries (INDEXASX: XAO) edged 4.6 points into the green, to 7,410.2.

Gold producers tracked the commodity’s price lower. Newmont Corporation CDI (ASX: NEM) fell 70 cents, or 1.2 per cent to $59.00; Bellevue Gold Ltd (ASX: BGL) dipped 14 cents, or 7.7 per cent, to $1.68; De Grey Mining Limited (ASX: DEG) gave up 7 cents, or 5.2 per cent, to $1.265; Perseus Mining Ltd (ASX: PRU) walked back 4 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to $1.83; Genesis Minerals Ltd (ASX: GMD) burned 6.5 cents, or 3.5 per cent, to $1.775; and Northern Star Resources Ltd (ASX: NST) dropped 26 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to $12.34.

Bellevue Gold share price

Lithium producer Pilbara Minerals Ltd (ASX: PLS) sank 11 cents, or 3 per cent, to $3.60, but fellow producer Allkem Ltd (ASX: AKE) strengthened 9 cents, or 1 per cent, to $9.25. IGO, which mines nickel as well as lithium, eased 16 cents, or 2 per cent to $8.02, while Mineral Resources Ltd (ASX: MIN), which produces iron ore and lithium, weakened 68 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $61.81. Lithium project developer Liontown Resources Ltd (ASX: LTR) was down 4.5 cents, or 3.3 per cent, to $1.335, and fellow developer Core Lithium Ltd (ASX: CXO) lost 1.5 cents, or 5.7 per cent, to 25 cents; but US-based developer Piedmont Lithium Inc (ASX: PLL) strengthened 1.5 cents, or 4 per cent, to 39.5 cents.

Pilbara share price

Weaker iron ore prices pressured the big miners, with Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX: RIO) eking out a 1-cent gain, to $128.90; and Fortescue Ltd (ASX: FMG) advancing 19 cents, or 0.7 per cent, to $25.94; for both stocks, it was the highest level since mid-2021. BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP), however, fell 20 cents, or 0.4 per cent, to $47.54. African-based uranium miner Paladin Energy Ltd (ASX: PDN) gained 2 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to 95.5 cents, while aluminium and alumina producer Alumina Limited (ASX: AWC) gave up 2.5 cents, or 3.1 per cent, to 78.5 cents.

Rio Tinto share price

But the energy sub-index gained 1.2 per cent, led by sector heavyweight Woodside Energy Group Ltd (ASX: WDS), which lifted 45 cents, or 1.5 per cent, to $30.26. Santos Ltd (ASX: STO) – with which Woodside is discussing a merger – gained 4 cents, or 0.6 per cent, to $7.29.

In coal, Whitehaven Coal Ltd (ASX: WHC) managed a 2-cent gain, to $7.22; New Hope Corporation Ltd (ASX: NHC) added 4 cents, or 0.8 per cent, to $5.07; Coronado Global Resources Inc (ASX: CRN) retreated 5 cents, or 2.8 per cent, to $1.725; Stanmore Resources Ltd (ASX: SMR) also lost 5 cents, in its case 1.3 per cent, to $3.77; and Terracom Ltd (ASX: TER) slipped 2.5 cents, or 6.3 per cent, to 37 cents.

Pharmacy giant is officially a goer

Sigma Healthcare Ltd (ASX: SIG) has greenlit a “transformational merger” with Chemist Warehouse, a move that will bring the prominent retail pharmacy brand onto the ASX and create an $8.8 billion retail giant. Sigma shares remain in a halt, and last traded at 76.5 cents.

Among the big banks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) added 50 cents, or 0.5 per cent, to $106.94; National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX: NAB) gained 10 cents, or 0.3 per cent, to $29.30; Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) pushed 2 cents higher, to $21.94; and ANZ Group Holdings Ltd (ASX: ANZ) was unchanged at $24.61. Global investment bank and wealth manager Macquarie Group Ltd (ASX: MQG) retreated 24 cents, to $169.11.

Biotech heavyweight CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) lifted 83 cents, or 0.3 per cent, to $267.75. Telstra Group Ltd (ASX: TLS) eased 1 cent, to $3.83.

Kin Group has lifted its buyout bid for packager Pact Group Holdings Ltd (ASX: PGH) from 68 cents a share to 84 cents; Pact shares surged 15.5 cents, or 22.6 per cent, to trade at the new bid price.

Embattled Sydney casino owner Star Entertainment Group Ltd (ASX: SGR) plunged 4.5 cents, or 8.7 per cent, to 47.5 cents, as concerns continue to circulate that the group could lose the ability to operate its Sydney casino.

Fleet management and leasing specialist Smartgroup Corporation Ltd (ASX: SIQ) spiked 62 cents, or 7.4 per cent, to $8.95 after winning a bid to be the exclusive salary packaging and novated leasing provider for the South Australian government’s 110,000 employees.

Smartgroup share price

Fruit and vegetable grower Costa Group Holdings Ltd (ASX: CGC) slid 12 cents, or 3.9 per cent, to $2.96 after saying that earnings in financial-year 2023 would come in below 2022’s figures.

Wall Street waiting on the Fed

It was a night of small gains for the major US indices, with markets subdued ahead of the US central bank’s last meeting of the year, later this week.

The 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX: .DJI) advanced 157.06 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 36,404.93, while the broader S&P 500 (INDEXSP: .INX) index gained 18.07 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4,622.44, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (INDEXNASDAQ: .IXIC) Index was up 28.51 points, or 0.2 per cent.

In the bond market, the US 10-year bond yield was up just under one basis point, to 4.235 per cent, while the 2-year yield retreated 2.1 basis points, to 4.706 per cent.

Gold dropped US$25.54, or 1.3 per cent, to US$1,981.66 an ounce. The global benchmark Brent crude oil grade gained 23 cents, or 0.3 per cent, to US$76.07 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate oil added 17 cents, or 0.2 per cent, to US$71.40 a barrel.

The Australian dollar is buying 65.67 US cents this morning, up from 65.56 cents at the ASX close on Monday.

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