Aussie shares wiped more than half the week’s gains as US index futures retreated following disappointing earnings from market heavyweights Apple and Amazon.
The old adage “Sell in May and go away” has seldom been interpreted so literally as the S&P/ASX 200 slumped 204 points or 3.7 per cent. The tumble more than halved the index’s gains for the week from an impressive 278 points at yesterday’s close to a modest 74 points at the halfway mark of today’s session.
The retreat followed solid losses on Wall Street and early signs from index futures there may be more ahead tonight. The S&P 500 shed 27 points or 0.9 per cent overnight at the end of a banner month that delivered the index’s best return since 1987, a rise of 12.7 per cent.
S&P 500 index futures were recently off 43 points or 1.5 per cent after poorly-received after-market reports. Amazon shares dived 4.8 per cent after the company beat sales expectations but warned it expects to spend at least $4 billion protecting staff this quarter. Apple shares shed 2.6 per cent as the tech giant beat earnings and revenue targets but declined to forecast earnings this quarter due to the impact of COVID-19.
All 11 Australian sectors flashed red as institutional traders unwound window dressing that helped the S&P/ASX 200 put on 8.8 per cent during a record month. Just 11 of the 200 companies on the index advanced. Janus Henderson and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare were the only firms to add more than 5 per cent.
Defensive stocks skated the worst of the selling, with health the pick of a rotten bunch with a drop of 1.2 per cent and utilities and consumer staples close behind with falls of 1.3 per cent and 1.8 per cent, respectively. ResMed cushioned the health sector with a rise of 4.6 per cent on news respirator sales helped lift its quarterly revenue by 17 per cent.
The energy sector, which finished April at a six-week high, slumped 5.2 per cent as traders took profits in Santos -7.7 per cent, Oil Search -5.9 per cent and Woodside -4.5 per cent. A brutal sell-off in the broader resources sector sent Rio Tinto down 4.8 per cent to its weakest level in more than a month and BHP down 6.8 per cent. Newcrest slumped 7.1 per cent to $25.57 after raising $1 billion from institutions at $25.60 a share.
The banks have glided higher during a week of impairments and slashed or suspended dividends, but hit a brick wall this morning. CBA shed 4.3 per cent, ANZ 5.9 per cent, NAB 4.9 per cent and Westpac 6 per cent.
Shopping centre operators came in for particularly rough treatment amid expectations for higher cleaning costs as they try to lure shoppers back through their doors. Scentre Group plunged 9.9 per cent, GPT 9.5 per cent, Vicinity Centres 9.2 per cent and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield 8.1 per cent.
Japan’s Nikkei dropped 2.3 per cent. Most other Asian markets, including Hong Kong and China, were closed for May Day holidays.
The recovery in oil continued, with Brent crude climbing 41 cents or 1.6 per cent this morning to $US26.89 a barrel.
Gold edged up 20 cents or less than 0.1 per cent to $US1,694.40 an ounce.
The dollar extended overnight falls, dropping another 0.7 per cent to 64.62 US cents.
What’s hot today and what’s not:
Hot today: Janus Henderson (ASX:JHG) was one of the few major companies to resist the market trend after the asset manager maintained its dividend and beat analyst expectations on both revenue and profit. First-quarter revenue was US$555 million, comfortably above the median analyst estimate of US$527 million. Net profit was 2.5 per cent higher than the same period last year at US$112.7 million. The share price vaulted 10 per cent to $27.06.
Not today: Boat-builder Austal (ASX:ASB) hit the rocks as a new contract to build six patrol boats for the Royal Australian Navy failed to offset the loss of an existing contract to supply frigates to the US Navy. The company released side-by-side good news-bad news announcements before the market opened. The good news was a $324 million contract to construct six Cape-class patrol boats in WA, the largest contract in the company’s 30-year history. The bad news was the loss in a four-way tussle of a contract to build an enhanced version of a littoral combat ship the company currently manufactures for the US Navy. Investors abandoned ship, sending the share price down 16.1 per cent.