ASX slides below 6000 as banks weigh, Domain drops 17pc

0

 

The ASX closed below the 6000 level for the first time since early December on Monday, pulled down by banks, as Domain shares shed 17 per cent following the shock resignation of its CEO.

CBA shares fell 1.2 per cent to $78.85, with Citi downgrading the lender to sell. Other banks were lower as well, with Westpac down 1.2 per cent at $30.57, ANZ ending the day 0.9 per cent lower at $28.30 and NAB 0.6 per cent weaker at $29.

The banking sector was biggest drag on the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which ended the session down 13 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 5991.

The All Ordinaries ended lower by the same amount in point and percentage terms to finish the day at 6106. The Australian dollar was a touch weaker against the US dollar, at US79.89¢, with investors appearing to take the weekend’s US government shutdown in their stride.

Monday’s weakness aside, Deutsche Bank’s equity strategy team expects 2018 to be another good year for the Australian market although returns for the ASX are likely to continue to lag those of other global markets.

“Market valuations should be sustained at above-average levels while earnings growth is expected to be reasonable,” strategist Tim Baker said.

Domain was the standout mover on Monday, with the firm’s shares slumping 17.2 per cent to $2.75 on Monday after the news that CEO Antony Catalano had unexpectedly resigned.

Domain was recently spun out from Fairfax Media, the publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review, which ended the day down 9.7 per cent at 67 cents. Elsewhere in the media sector, Nine Entertainment climbed 6.9 per cent to $1.63, while Seven West Media gained 4.6 per cent to 58¢.

McGrath shares fell 13.8 per cent to 50¢ after its CEO, along with most of its board, resigned following a profit warning.

Healthcare stocks were also a focus, after Australian Pharmaceuticals shed 3.6 per cent to $1.48 after a profit warning, while Mayne Pharma lost 6.7 per cent to 69c.

Retail Food Group fell 2.4 per cent to $2.02 after it created a new chief executive role to oversee its embattled Australian store network. Former Metcash executive Richard Hinson was hired for the role.

The ADRs of eCargo Holdings surged 233 per cent to 23 cents in Australian trading on Monday after the firm said that it will buy 45 per cent of entrepreneur Jessica Rudd’s online retail business, Jessica’s Suitcase.

Stockwatch

CBA

CBA shares lost 1.2 per cent with the bank ending the session at $78.85. Citi downgraded the banking giant to sell from neutral with the bank’s analysts saying that their framework for examining previous banking crises suggests a period of share price underperformance is likely for CBA. Second-half earnings in 2018 are likely to be much more challenging for the lender, the analysts said. They noted that, with the benefit of mortgage repricing changes now largely evident, there could be a decline in balance sheet momentum combined with rising compliance and remediation costs. “We envisage an unwinding of CBA’s relative valuation multiple with corresponding underperformance,” the analysts said while cutting their target price for the bank to $72 from $76.75.

Movers

Billionaires

Last year saw the largest increase in the number of billionaires, and their wealth, since the start of this century. The number of Australian billionaires grew by a third in 2017, and has more than doubled in the last decade. Australia added eight new billionaires in 2017, lifting the number to 33, while their overall wealth increased by around $38 billion and their total wealth sitting at around $115.4 billion. Miners make up a large proportion of the nation’s top 10 billionaires, with Gina Rinehart topping the list.

Japan

Tokyo braced for heavy snowfall on Monday, prompting Japan’s national broadcaster to urge the city’s workaholic citizens to head home early, and some train operators to cancel services. As much as 10 cm was predicted for central Tokyo by the time the snow was expected to stop early on Tuesday. Trade officials are gathering in Tokyo this week to try and forge ahead with a trade pact that US President Donald Trump abandoned last year, the new 11-member club risks getting bogged down by resistance from Canada. Along with Australia and Mexico, Tokyo has lobbied hard for the agreement.

Aussie

The Australian dollar was a touch weaker against the US dollar on Monday, trading at US78.89¢, with markets appearing largely unruffled by the shuttering of the US government over the weekend. “While a shutdown is not ideal, it’s unlikely to last long and won’t have negative long-term implications,” said Diana Mousina at AMP Capital. “But, the longer the shutdown goes on, the more negative it will be for equities in the short-term. The issue around lifting the debt ceiling is also coming up and needs to be voted on in February and is more important than a government shutdown risk because of the need to keep paying US debt.”

Emerging markets

Mexico and Turkey are showing themselves to be the most attractive emerging markets in 2018 based on a range of metrics including growth, yields, current-account position and asset valuations evaluated by Bloomberg. By contrast, Asian economies were among the five least attractive. Mexico and Turkey scored higher as their real effective exchange rates are competitive compared with the average of the past 10 years. For India and China, their valuations are relatively expensive in historical terms.

Singapore

Singapore Exchange said it will allow companies with dual-class share structures to list, a month after Hong Kong announced a similar proposal, as competition between markets for technology listings becomes increasingly fierce. SGX will consult on the rules this quarter and expects the first listing “soon after,” CEO Loh Boon Chye said. The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it supported SGX’s decision to allow dual-class share structures, and that it would review the safeguards the exchange will propose to mitigate the risks involved. SGX also said that it would go ahead with the introduction of stock futures on some of India’s largest companies on Feb. 5.