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A two-day rally in Australian stocks stuttered this morning after a downbeat assessment of the economic outlook in the US dampened risk appetite.  

The S&P/ASX 200 sank 36 points or 0.7 per cent to 5371, erasing roughly a quarter of the index’s gains this week.

The bullish mood at the start of last night’s Wall Street session dwindled after Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said an economic rebound in the third quarter was a “possibility” but would require more action from the central bank and government. The S&P 500 halved its early advance to 26 points or 0.9 per cent.

US index futures remained soft  this morning. S&P 500 index futures were recently down six points or 0.2 per cent, but off their morning lows.

The big banks spearheaded the retreat here, ending two days of solid gains. CBA retreated 1 per cent, ANZ and Westpac 2 per cent and NAB 3.3 per cent. Macquarie Group fell 0.9 per cent. Insurers Suncorp and IAG shed 1.9 per cent and 2.4 per cent, respectively.

The industrials sector was the other major drag on the market, falling 1.4 per cent as Qantas lost 2.8 per cent, Sydney Airport 2.3 per cent and Transurban 1.7 per cent.

Utilities, tech and health stocks cushioned the market from a deeper fall. ResMed put on 3.9 per cent, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare 3.1 per cent, Afterpay 2.9 per cent, WiseTech 1.8 per cent and Spark Infrastructure 1.6 per cent.

Self-storage operator National Storage was one of the index’s worst performers, sliding 5.3 per cent after completing a capital raising. Companies tapped the market for almost three times as much money last month as during the same period last year, according to ASX data released today. Meanwhile, the number of new companies listing on the market collapsed. The total amount of capital raised during the rush to strengthen balance sheets in the face of COVID-19 lockdowns surged 185 per cent to $13.8 billion. There were just seven new listings, compared to 92 in April last year.

Newcrest was the pick of the mining majors, rising 3.4 per cent. BHP dipped 1.2 per cent and Rio Tinto 1.3 per cent. Fortescue rose 0.6 per cent.

The index’s best performers were online mapping company Nearmap +7.4 per cent, real estate media group Domain +6.6 per cent and mining services company Perenti Global +6.3 per cent.

Panic buying produced a record pop in retail sales in March, according to ABS data. Retail turnover increased a seasonally-adjusted 8.5 per cent as people loaded up on food and household goods.

“The March month saw both the strongest rise in food retailing, and the strongest fall in cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services, that we have seen in the history of the series,” Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys at ABS, said.

Asian markets were mixed. China’s Shanghai Composite dropped 0.3 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng bounced 0.7 per cent. Trade in Japan was suspended for a public holiday.

Brent crude improved 15 cents or 0.4 per cent this morning to $US31.16 a barrel. Gold bounced $1.60 or 0.1 per cent to $US1,712.20 an ounce.

The dollar was steady at 64.3 US cents.

What’s hot today and what’s not:

Hot today: Electronic payments companies are running hot since news broke on Monday that Chinese giant Tencent took a stake in local industry leader Afterpay (ASX:APT). Rival Z1P (ASX: Z1P) advanced 8.9 per cent this morning to a two-month high and EML Payments (ASX:EML) 4.8 per cent. Donor management provider Pushpay Holdings (ASX:PPH) jumped 16.7 per cent after the company hit its full-year guidance and predicted strong future revenue growth as it gains market share in the American “faith sector”.   

Not today: The myth of the rational market was undermined again today by the performance of oil minnow Jupiter Energy (ASX:JPR). The company’s share price soared an astonishing 8,650 per cent in two sessions last month before going into a trading halt while the company explored the “irregular trading activity”. Shares resumed trading after the company issued a statement saying it found no evidence of institutional buying, rather the activity seemed to have been spurred by social media recommendations and driven by day traders. The share price re-opened at less than half its value, then promptly rallied from 8 cents to 10.5 cents despite the revelation that Chairman and CEO Geoff Gander sold shares into the rally. Go figure.     

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