The share market’s first rally in four days floundered by mid-session as declines in health and bank stocks offset rebounds in energy and mining stocks.
The S&P/ASX 200 rose as much as 61 points in early action before fading to a mid-session deficit of 16 points or 0.3 per cent. The reversal extended the benchmark index’s loss for the week beyond 270 points. Turmoil in oil markets triggered heavy selling earlier in the week, tipping the index down as much as 7 per cent in three sessions before a reversal yesterday as crude bounced off multi-year lows.
Oil prices continued to improve this morning. Brent crude advanced 39 cents or 1.9 per cent to $US20.76 a barrel, extending an overnight revival of 5.4 per cent. That helped lift the local energy sector 2.4 per cent. Santos spearheaded the advance with a rise of 7.4 per cent after reaffirming production guidance and indicating it expects sales to hit the lower end of previous guidance. Oil Search climbed 3.7 per cent, Beach Energy 3 per cent and Woodside 2 per cent.
Market jitters dissipated overnight as oil recovered. In the US, the S&P 500 rallied for the first time this week, gaining 63 points or 2.29 per cent. The Dow clawed back almost half of its loss for the week with a rise of 457 points or 1.99 per cent.
Gold stocks shone here during a strong morning for miners. Regis Resources added 5.5 per cent, Saracen Mineral 4.9 per cent, Resolute Mining 4.2 per cent and Newcrest 2.9 per cent. The rallies followed a 3 per cent surge in the precious metal after US President Donald Trump ramped up tensions in the Middle East by ordering the US Navy to fire on any Iranian gunboats menacing US military vessels. Gold faded $3.70 or 0.2 per cent this morning to $US1,734.70 an ounce.
Elsewhere in the resources space, rare earths miner Lynas put on 17.2 per cent, lithium miner Galaxy Resources 7.6 per cent, graphite miner Syrah Resources 4.9 per cent, BHP 2.1 per cent and Rio Tinto 1.3 per cent.
Health and utilities were the biggest drags on the index. Mayne Pharma sagged 6.7 per cent, Ramsay Health Care 5.7 per cent, Blackmores 4.8 per cent, AusNet 1.9 per cent and APA Group 1.1 per cent. ANZ dropped 0.2 per cent, CBA 0.5 per cent, NAB 1.5 per cent and Westpac 1.2 per cent.
The bleak run of news from the high street continued. Thorn Group announced it will close all of its Radio Rentals stores permanently. Thorn’s share price bounced 35.8 per cent. Fashion retailer and wholesaler PAS Group called a trading halt while it assesses restructure options. A preliminary measure of business activity showed a sharp contraction at services providers. Commonwealth Bank’s flash services sector PMI for April plunged 18.9 points to 19.6. A measure of manufacturing activity contracted 4.1 points to 45.6 points. The composite measure tanked 17 points to a record low 22.4.
“The overall result is simply astonishing,” Commonwealth Bank senior economist Gareth Aird said.
Asian markets gave up most of their initial gains. China’s Shanghai Composite was last up 0.2 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.1 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 0.7 per cent. S&P 500 index futures were down 12 points or 0.4 per cent.
The dollar retreated almost 0.4 per cent to 63.01 US cents.
What’s hot today and what’s not:
Hot today: Long-term believers in Jupiter Energy (ASX:JPR) have been spectacularly rewarded for their patience this week. In one of the most extraordinary bull runs seen on the ASX in recent years, the share price shot from two-tenths of a cent on Tuesday to a high of 35 cents today. Anyone holding before the run who sold at the top would have made a profit of 17,400 per cent. What caused the excitement? Beats us, said the company in an announcement to the ASX late yesterday. Releases this morning indicated the company sold 8,500 barrels of oil worth US$117,000 last quarter from its wells in Kazakhstan. The share price was lately up 173 per cent at 15 cents.
Not today: Australian Pharmaceutical Industries (ASX:API) hit a four-year low after scrapping its interim dividend and declining to offer guidance for the second half of the year. While the company had confidence in its long-term growth prospects, it said it needed to preserve cash because of volatility caused by COVID-19. The half-year result was in line with expectations. Revenue increased by 2.8 per cent to $2 billion. The share price sank 10.7 per cent to $1.01.