ASX opens lower ahead of RBA rate call; Qantas gains

By Millie Muroi

The Australian sharemarket slipped lower ahead of the Reserve Bank’s interest rate decision this afternoon, weighed down by the mining heavyweights. Qantas Airways advanced after announcing its CEO Alan Joyce is stepping down immediately.

The S&P/ASX 200 was down 40.7 points, or 0.6 per cent, at 7278.10 shortly after 11am AEST as all sectors except consumer staples and industrials traded in the red. The local bourse lacked direction overnight from Wall Street, which was closed for America’s Labor Day holiday.

European stocks took centre stage with Wall Street closed for a holiday.
European stocks took centre stage with Wall Street closed for a holiday. Credit: Martin Leissl

Qantas shares rose 1.2 per cent on the news CEO Alan Joyce will step down from his post after 15 years, two months earlier than originally scheduled. The news comes after a horror month for the airline that culminated in allegations of improper government influence, anticompetitive practices and the alleged sale of tickets for flights already cancelled.

Investors are watching out for the RBA’s next rate decision, to be announced at 2:30pm AEST, with expectations that the central bank will keep interest rates on hold.

Consumer staples (up 0.1 per cent) were the strongest sector on the local bourse as supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths gained 0.3 per cent and 0.2 per cent, respectively, and Endeavour added 0.9 per cent.

Industrials (up 0.1 per cent) also helped to bolster the index as shares in Transurban increased 0.5 per cent, Auckland International Airport added 1.1 per cent and Computershare rose 0.4 per cent.

Shares in Boral (up 1.4 per cent) and AGL (up 1 per cent) were also among the strongest large-cap performers.

Meanwhile, coal miner Yancoal (down 7.8 per cent) was the biggest large-cap decliner amid a 0.7 per cent fall in the energy sector more broadly. Whitehaven (down 1.6 per cent) was also weaker.

Miners (down 0.9 per cent) were among the weakest sectors on the index with lithium, gold and iron ore miners all dropping. Pilbara Minerals (down 3.8 per cent) and Liontown (down 2.3 per cent) slipped lower, along with gold miners Northern Star (down 2.9 per cent) and Evolution (down 2.5 per cent). Fortescue fell 1.7 per cent, while market heavyweights BHP and Rio lost 0.7 per cent and 1.2 per cent, respectively.


In overseas markets, European shares ceded earlier gains in low-volume trading overnight as some of the optimism around China’s property market stimulus ebbed.

Europe’s Stoxx 600 gauge closed little-changed after rising as much as 0.8 per cent earlier. The consumer, travel and leisure and mining shares — sectors with exposure to China — advanced.

With Wall Street shuttered, European trading volumes were below their thirty-day average by almost a third, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk, maker of diet drug Ozempic, rose to a new record high, having just become Europe’s most valuable firm. Carmaker Mercedes Benz Group added 1 per cent after unveiling a new, longer-range electric vehicle.

Expectations of crude supply cuts from the OPEC+ group kept oil futures near nine-month highs.

Markets got a boost from a US jobs report on Friday that showed a steadily cooling US labour market, offering the Federal Reserve room to pause rate increases this month. Sentiment improved further after news of a weekend surge in home sales in two of China’s biggest cities, an early sign that government efforts to cushion a record housing slowdown is helping.

Shanghai and Beijing are seen benefiting the most from authorities’ announcement on Thursday that lowered down-payment thresholds across the nation. The Hang Seng index jumped more than 3 per cent on Monday before paring gains, while a Bloomberg gauge of Chinese developers jumped as much as 8.7 per cent.

“We have been looking for more significant property rescue measures for some time to shore up sentiment and consumer confidence,” UBS Global Wealth Management chief investment officer Mark Haefele said. “This now appears to be materialising in a more convincing way.”

WTI crude oil was up about 0.5 per cent at $US85.9 per barrel after surging last week on Russia’s announcement that it will extend export curbs. Saudi Arabia — which along with Moscow sets the tone at the OPEC+ alliance — is widely expected by traders to follow suit by pushing its voluntary curbs into October.

Some investors are convinced the Fed won’t hike rates further this cycle, bets that were reinforced after last week’s jobs data. At the same time, this year’s US stock market rally is strong enough to withstand another leg higher for bond yields, according to the latest Markets Live Pulse survey.

“The incoming data supports our view of a ‘softish’ landing for the US economy,” Haefele said.

While Treasury markets were closed, bond yields inched higher in the eurozone, with rate-setters seemingly divided on whether policy needs to be tightened further this month, given above-forecast inflation and sluggish growth. In a speech in London, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde avoided signalling whether policymakers will raise or hold interest rates next week.

With Bloomberg

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