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More bleak reports from our big banks took the shine off an optimistic start on the ASX today.

Wall Street had a happy night as quarantine measures around the globe begin to tentatively lift. While Aussies slept, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1.51 per cent to 24,133.88 points.

With New South Wales joining Queensland and Western Australia in easing its own quarantine measures, our benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index quickly tacked on almost 50 points in the first hour of trade.

However, the gains were quickly reverse following a hefty drop in the price of oil and a Westpac report that the banking giant was predicting a $2.2 billion impairment for the first half of the 2020 financial year. Of this, $1.6 billion is attributed directly to COVID-19.

In response, the ASX 200 gave back some ground and closed 0.16 per cent lower at 5313.10 points.

According to Westpac, the impairment only represents a 0.11 per cent blow to its common equity tier one (CET1) capital ratio capital. However, the company shared a similarly bleak financial outlook to NAB, which announced it was tapping investors for $3.5 billion yesterday morning.

Today, the financials sector was mixed. While Westpac’s share price gained 1.77 per cent, NAB slumped 2.79 per cent. Commonwealth Bank lost 0.46 per cent and ANZ 0.32 per cent.

While our materials sector was mixed, the losses outweighed the wins. Iron ore giant BHP lost a muted 0.03 per cent, and Fortescue Metals close grey. However, Rio Tinto lost 1.43 per cent.

Meanwhile, the price of gold was 0.93 per cent lower, taking our listed gold miners with it. Newcrest lost 2.25 per cent, Northern Star Resources 2.14 per cent, and Regis Resources 4.08 per cent.

A renewed slump in oil prices meant the energy sector was painted red once more. Woodside lost 1.78 per cent, Santos 1.85 per cent, and Origin Energy 1.01 per cent. Oil Search declined 0.77 per cent.

However, our discretionary stocks rallied today as easing quarantine measures bring about new hope for embattled retailers, restaurants, and tourism stocks. Aristocrat Leisure gained 4.17 per cent, Tabcorp 2.77 per cent, and Crown Resorts 2.14 per cent. Meanwhile, Dominoes Pizza gained 5.43 per cent.

Staples stocks, which have typically been performing well throughout the COVID-19 crisis, kept their gains muted. Woolworths gained 0.33 per cent, the A2 Milk Company 0.85 per cent, and Elders 0.35 per cent. Coles gained a tepid 0.06 per cent.

As for our eastern neighbours, it was a mixed session across Asian markets today. When the ASX closed, the Asia Dow was trading 0.20 per cent higher and the Hang Seng 0.77 per cent higher. However, Japan’s Nikkei 225 was red by 0.17 per cent, with the Shanghai Composite down 0.04 per cent.

The Aussie dollar is slightly weaker today, currently buying 64.56 US cents, 51.97 pence, and 12.14 South African Rand.

Today’s ups and downs

Junior gold and copper explorer Emmerson Resources (ASX:ERM) increased in value by a third today after teaming up with private Nothern Territory mining company NT Bullion. As part of a new joint venture, Emmerson will operate its Tennant Creek projects but NT Bullion will pay $5 million to fund the operations. Further, NT Bullion is buying $2 million worth of ERM shares at 14 cents each — a 100 per cent premium to ERM’s five-day volume-weighted average. ERM shares closed 32.88 per cent higher at 9.7 cents each today.

Meanwhile, microcap gold company Kalnorth Gold Mines (ASX:KGM) is the latest in a growing list of companies to see incredible share price runs with no explanation. Yesterday, shares in the company surged 567 per cent ahead from just 0.3 cents each to two cents. Today, shares have lost 45 per cent of their value, but are still over 200 per cent higher than they were on Monday morning, closing worth 1.1 cents each.

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