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ASX flat after Woolies, Afterpay drop

Woolworths and Afterpay were among high-profile losers as investors backed away from the share market in the leadup to a key US Federal Reserve meeting.

Woolworths lost more than seven per cent on Tuesday and Afterpay shed a little more than four per cent, keeping the ASX little changed.

The supermarket giant revealed first-half earnings would be lower due to about $220 million in coronavirus costs.

Woolworths’ decline might have influenced selling of other consumer stocks, Coles and Wesfarmers. Each lost a little more than two per cent.

Afterpay investors were grim despite voting for a $39 billion takeover bid from US payments provider Block (formerly Square).

Saxo Markets strategist Jessica Amir noted both vendors’ prices fell since the takeover was proposed in August.

That will particularly sadden Afterpay investors, due to be paid in Block stock.

“I don’t understand why people would buy a stock leaving an exchange,” Ms Amir said of Afterpay shares.

“Its earnings are not going to the same entity.”

Modest gains for most banks and miners were offset by the heavy falls for the consumer stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed lower by 0.9 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 7378.4 points.

The All Ordinaries closed higher by 0.8 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 7698.3 points.

The market did much better than Wall Street, which closed lower.

The US Federal Reserve will this week reveal by how much it will reduce bond-buying. The stimulus has helped the US economy but also high levels of inflation.

Shortly before the end of trade on the ASX, CSL revealed a $16.4 billion takeover bid for iron deficiency specialist Vifor Pharma of Switzerland.

A $6.3 billion share sale would help fund the buy.

Shares were paused from trading.

Skin device specialist PolyNovo jumped more than 15 per cent after revealing US second quarter sales were up 133 per cent on the same period last year.

The company is still to find a permanent chief executive.

The big banks moved little before ANZ, NAB and Westpac have annual general meetings in the next few days.

ANZ and Westpac gained about as much as half a per cent. The Commonwealth and NAB lost as much of the same measure.

The big miners improved after iron ore prices rose. Fortescue was best and rose 1.3 per cent to $18.70. BHP and Rio Tinto were up by as much as 0.58 per cent each.

Maps provider Nearmap said the value of its North America business would soon surpass the value of its Australia and New Zealand business.

The North America business is worth more than $70 million, while the group business is worth more than $140 million.

Shares were up 4.76 per cent to $1.54.

Medicine provider Mesoblast plunged more than 17 per cent after its partner in developing a key treatment opted out.

Novartis will no longer develop remestemcel-L, which treats respiratory distress in COVID-19 patients, after some trials did not go as well as hoped.

Mesoblast will keep working to bring the treatment to market.

The dollar was buying 71.14 US cents at 1723 AEDT, lower from 71.71 US cents at Monday’s close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed lower by 0.9 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 7378.4 points on Tuesday.

* The All Ordinaries closed higher by 0.8 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 7698.3 points.

* At 1723 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was lower by six points, or 0.08 per cent, to 7374 points.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 71.14 US cents, from 71.71 cents on Monday

* 80.79 Japanese yen, from 81.39 yen

* 63.04 Euro cents, from 63.48 cents

* 53.84 British pence, from 54.12 pence

* 105.46 NZ cents, from 105.54 cents.

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