Banks and miners carried the share market to its highest close since early January today amid high commodity prices and news of a potential earlier-than-expected rates hike from the Reserve Bank.
The S&P/ASX 200 closed 42 points or 0.56 per cent higher at 7565.2 points today, marking its third straight green close and following a four-day hiatus over the Easter long weekend.
Rio Tinto and Macquarie group led the gains among the market heavyweights. Banking stocks rose, as well, comfortably offsetting losses from the tech and healthcare sectors.
What moved the market
The ASX shrugged off a choppy session on Wall Street, with investors distracted by China’s zero-Covid policy and warnings from Chinese officials that restrictions were starting to impact the country’s economy.
Factor in the threat of an EU-wide ban on Russian oil imports and the closure of Libya’s largest oilfield amid a bitter standoff between two rival governments, and oil prices extended a four-day rally. Of course, with the ASX closed for Easter, this means investors had four days of oil rises to price in.
Brent crude futures gained 0.23 per cent to US$113.1 per barrel, while West Texas Intermediate tacked on 0.24 per cent to US$107.78 a barrel.
Gold dipped 0.46 per cent today to US$1977 per ounce, and copper fell 0.13 per cent to US$10,276 per tonne.
Coal was 1.56 per cent lower at $309 a tonne, and iron ore was trading at US$155.62 a tonne.
Still, with commodities priced higher than before the Easter break, the ASX 200 Materials index tacked on a neat 1.03 per cent.
The RBA today published the minutes from its April 5 board meeting in which the central bank said an expected increase in inflation and looming wage pressures may mean it needs to increase the cash rate earlier than initially expected.
“For some time, the board had been communicating that it wanted to see evidence that inflation is sustainably within the 2 to 3 per cent target range before increasing interest rates,” the RBA minutes said.
The bank said in order to see inflation “sustainably” within this range, Australia needed to see a faster rate of wages growth than had been experienced over recent years.
“Inflation had picked up and a further increase was expected, with measures of underlying inflation in the March quarter expected to be above 3 per cent. Wages growth had also picked up but, in aggregate terms, had been below rates likely to be consistent with inflation being sustainable at the target.
“These developments have brought forward the likely timing of the first increase in interest rates.”
Analysts largely expect the RBA to raise the cash rate in June for the first time since November 2010.
The prospect of an early rates hike boded well for the financials sector, with our big four banks each closing green today.
Lithium big-cap Lake Resources soared 13.93 per cent today to $2.29 per share. While the company had no announcement today to justify the move, it follows the early stages of an important offtake deal struck with carmaker Ford last week for the supply of 25,000 tonnes per year of lithium from Lake’s Kachi project in Argentina.
Nickel explorer Nico Resources skyrocketed 39.75 per cent today to $1.67 per share after Managing Director Rod Corps snapped up another $700,000 worth of shares in an on-market trade. This is the eighth on-market trade made by Mr Corps since early March, with the Managing Director now having purchased over $9 million worth of Nico shares in less than two months.
It’s a massive vote of confidence for the company, which owns one of the world’s biggest undeveloped nickel resources.
Also on the junior end of the market, Aruma Resources surged 32.14 per cent to 19 cents per share despite having announced no significant news for almost a month. The company was hit with a speeding ticket by the ASX and called a trading halt before midday to explain the spike.
As for the market heavyweights, Woodside gained 1.61 per cent to $32.91 per share and BHP gained 1.28 per cent to $53.17 per share.
Today’s worst performers were a mixed bag including listed fishing specialist New Zealand King Salmon, which tumbled another 23 per cent. The company’s share price has halved since the start of April after it released a bleak earnings report last week. Shares that were worth over $1 at the end of March closed at 50 cents each this afternoon.
Oil and gas explorer Carnarvon Energy nosedived 19.4 per cent after announcing it was exiting its Apus-1 well near Port Hedland following disappointing results from a recent drilling program.
Meanwhile, shares in gold explorer Black Cat Syndicate fell 18.38 per cent to 55.5 cents each after the company raised $35 million at a 20 per cent discount to buy two new gold projects. The purchase also means Black Cat will pause construction work at its flagship Kal East project in Kalgoorlie.
Overseas, Asian markets are trading mostly red with the exception of Japan’s Nikkei 225 index, which was up 0.69 per cent 26,925 points when the ASX closed.
The Asia Dow was down 0.54 per cent to 3,449 points, the Hang Seng down 2.39 per cent to 21,003, and the Shanghai Composite 0.4 per cent to 3182.
The Australian dollar was up 0.26 per cent to 73.75 US cents.