Stocks crumbled to a two-week low amid end-of-month institutional selling as a historic contraction in the American economy overshadowed strong US tech earnings.
The S&P/ASX 200 sank 109 points or 1.8 per cent as the dollar hit a 15-month high and institutional investors rejigged their portfolios at the end of a fourth straight month of gains.
The index was on track for a slim monthly return of around 45 points or 0.8 per cent following a lacklustre few weeks when coronavirus surges here and in the US sapped confidence in a V-shaped economic rebound. Victoria this morning reported 627 new cases in the last 24 hours, down from yesterday’s record 723 cases.
The market ignored a jump in US index futures after tech giants Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Alphabet rallied in after-market trade after reporting earnings this morning. Nasdaq futures were lately up 121 points or 1.1 per cent after briefly rising as much as 2 per cent. S&P 500 futures rose 12 points or 0.4 per cent. The S&P 500 fell 12 points or 0.38 per cent overnight as investors digested the biggest contraction in US GDP in history.
The dollar climbed above 72 US cents for the first time since April 2019 as the greenback retreated. The Aussie was lately ahead 0.21 per cent at 72.08 US cents.
Mum and dad favourite AMP led the share market retreat after warning its half-year profit will half under the impact of COVID-19, market volatility and credit loss provisions. Shares in the wealth manager skidded 12.2 per cent. Virgin Money UK fell 7.1 per cent, IOOF Holdings 4.9 per cent and Janus Henderson 3.7 per cent. The big four banks shed between 1.9 and 2.9 per cent.
Mining stocks declined after stubbornly high unemployment in the US and a delay in a new stimulus package weighed on commodity prices. BHP gave up 2.6 per cent, Rio Tinto 2.5 per cent, Woodside Petroleum 2.3 per cent and Newcrest 2.1 per cent. Copper-gold miner Sandfire Resources tumbled another 10.1 per cent a day after a downbeat production forecast.
News of a 3 per cent decline in quarterly revenue dragged Origin Energy down 4.1 per cent to a two-month low. Full-year revenue fell 5 per cent due to a decline in domestic gas sales and weak prices.
A strong rebound in fourth-quarter sales boosted Super Retail Group 9 per cent. The automotive retailer expects to announce a net profit after tax of $153-154 million, matching last year’s result despite a 26.2 per cent plunge in monthly sales in April.
Technology was the best of the sectors with a skinny loss of 0.2 per cent. Nextdc added 2 per cent, Megaport 0.7 per cent and Afterpay 0.5 per cent.
Asian markets traded mixed after this month’s Chinese manufacturing and services reports came in broadly in line with expectations. China’s Shanghai Composite rose 0.5 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was less than 0.1 per cent above break-even and Japan’s Nikkei dived 1.9 per cent.
Oil bounced sharply this morning with US index futures. Brent crude rallied 37 cents or 0.9 per cent to $US43.31 a barrel. Gold jumped $17.70 or 0.9 per cent to $US1,960 an ounce.
What’s hot today and what’s not:
Hot today: News of a turnaround at Pureprofile (ASX:PPL) helped the marketing company’s shares more than double in value this morning. The company announced it had increased net cash from operating activities by 500 per cent last quarter to $1.5 million after slashing operating expenses by cutting salaries and working hours and applying for JobKeeper. The quarter also saw the company’s cash balance jump 220 per cent to $1.7 million. The share price shot from 1.7 cents to 7.5 cents and was last up 111 per cent at 3.6 cents.
Not today: Shares in Phoslock Environmental Technologies (ASX:PET) slumped to a two-and-a-half-year low after the water treatment specialist revealed a slump in first-half revenues as COVID-19 and flooding in China delayed key projects. First-half revenues contracted to $1.2 million from $9.8 million over the same period in 2019. While the company declared it had $380 million worth of project work in the pipeline, it suspended previous earnings guidance, citing uncertainty over timing and revenues. The share price slid 22.2 per cent to a level last seen in November 2017.