The Australian sharemarket tread water in a bumpy session yet again, with lower prices for most commodities weighing down resources stocks.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished just 0.1 of a point higher at 7415.5, while the All Ordinaries Index fell a mere 1.7 points to 7726.8.
After a wobbly session, Wall Street gave a mostly positive lead amid another round of strong profit reports, including Elon Musk’s Tesla, and year-end optimism.
But European stocks slipped, driven by gloomy investor sentiment on renewed worries around China’s property sector and mixed quarterly results, Ord Minnett said.
CommSec noted it was the second straight day the local bourse “finished completely flat”.
OMG chief executive Ivan Tchourilov said the ASX had a brief run in the green in intraday trade.
“Retailing and real estate were up, while energy and some of the big miners dragged the market lower,” he said.
“There has been a bit of relief in base metal supply, but we’ll still be looking at inflated prices for the short term.
“Overall, the market performed strongly this week, extending its week-on-week gain streak.
“We can expect a bit of a price correction at current levels.
“However, market sentiment is looking generally bullish towards the holiday season. We’re dreaming of a green Christmas.”
Wesfarmers rose 3.17 per cent to $57.31 after advising all resolutions had passed at its annual general meeting late on Thursday, which heard its Bunnings “snag and a jab” vaccination clinics had delivered about 80,000 shots.
Woolworths outperformed Coles, lifting 1.64 per cent to $40.29, with the latter finishing 0.67 per cent higher at $17.95.
UBS said in a research note it expected Woolworths’ second quarter food sales growth would exceed Coles’, which had a greater skew to large shopping centres that suffered during lockdowns.
Among real estate stocks, Goodman Group appreciated 1.13 per cent to $22.46, while Stockland lifted 0.85 per cent to $4.77.
Mr Tchourilov said the materials sector didn’t have a good week, with most blue chips losing value.
“Openmarkets investors took the opportunity to buy in, and we had BHP, Fortescue Metals, Rio Tinto and Perseus featuring in our top 10 most purchased,” he said.
Each had lost ground over the week, mainly due to underwhelming quarterly updates, Mr Tchourilov said.
BHP slid 2.16 per cent to $37.65, Fortescue eased 0.69 per cent to $14.31, Rio Tinto weakened 1.8 per cent to $95.03 and gold miner Perseus declined 2.4 per cent to $1.63.
“We’re now seeing the material results of China’s steel production curbing,” Mr Tchourilov said.
“Though the bottom lines haven’t been completely ruined, we’re not expecting another record dividend to be announced next year in current conditions.
“Still, at current valuations, it’s hard to look away, from Fortescue especially.
“Iron may not be back up to record highs soon, but demand will never fully dissipate, either. Even steely faced investors will come back to iron.”
CommSec market analyst Steven Daghlian said it had been tough for mining stocks to shake off substantial commodity price falls, with iron ore, aluminium and nickel down by about 5 per cent, copper by about 4 per cent and oil by about 1 per cent
Rare earths miner Lynas slumped 8.07 per cent to $6.84 after providing its September quarter report showing a drop in production and revenue.
“An increase in Covid-19 case numbers resulted in the temporary closure of some of its Malaysia facilities due to the unavailability of personnel who were required to isolate,” CommSec noted.
Stanmore Resources was a strong performer, jumping 4.67 per cent to $1.12, but fellow coal miners Whitehaven and Yancoal were not, dropping 3.02 per cent to $2.89 and 8.06 per cent to $3.08 respectively.
Among oil and gas producers, Woodside retreated 2.84 per cent to $23.27, Beach lost 3.83 per cent to $1.38, Santos slid 2.22 per cent to $7.04 and Oil Search gave up 1.8 per cent to $4.33.
Healthcare stock Healius Ltd gained 4 per cent to $4.94 after providing a quarterly trading update, saying 44 per cent growth in group revenue had been driven by both Covid testing revenue as well as stronger than expected non-Covid revenue, despite various lockdowns.
Aurizon backtracked 6.17 per cent to $3.65 after announcing it had inked an agreement to acquire One Rail Australia for $2.35bn.
“This is part of its strategy to move into new geographies,” Mr Daghlian said.
ANZ dipped 0.11 per cent to $28.21, Commonwealth Bank inched seven cents lower to $104.88, National Australia Bank slipped four cents to $28.86 and Westpac shed 0.35 per cent to $25.74.
In economic news, Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe participated in an online panel at a Universidad de Chile conference, saying he did not think rising inflation would be sustained unless it led to sustainably higher wages growth.
The Aussie dollar was fetching 74.82 US cents, 54.21 British pence and 64.33 Euro cents in afternoon trade.