ASX steps up after Wall Street scuffles on inflation data

By Millie Muroi

Energy and mining companies powered the Australian sharemarket on Thursday as it reemerged from the red following a highly anticipated inflation report in the US overnight.

The S&P/ASX 200 was up 13.9 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 7167.8 about 10.50am AEST despite industrials, healthcare and real estate investment trusts (REITS) trading in the red.

Wall Street has had a shaky reaction to the latest inflation numbers.
Wall Street has had a shaky reaction to the latest inflation numbers.Credit: AP

Miners (up 0.6 per cent) were among the strongest on the local bourse led by Lynas Rare Earths (up 3.3 per cent). Iron ore heavyweights Fortescue (up 2.4 per cent) and Rio Tinto (up 1.3 per cent) were also stronger following a 0.3 per cent lift in iron ore prices. Shares in lithium miners IGO (up 1.6 per cent) and Pilbara Minerals (up 1.3 per cent) also advanced.

Energy companies (up 0.3 per cent) stepped up with coal miners New Hope (up 2.6 per cent) and Whitehaven (up 1.8 per cent) among the biggest large-cap advancers. Heavyweights Woodside (up 0.1 per cent) and Santos (up 0.2 per cent) also edged up despite a 0.3 per cent slide in Brent crude oil prices.

Meanwhile, Spark New Zealand (down 3.5 per cent) was the biggest large-cap decliner followed by Cleanaway Waste (down 1.8 per cent) and South32 (down 1.7 per cent).

REITS (down 0.3 per cent) was the weakest sector on the index weighed by Scentre (down 0.2 per cent), Mirvac (down 0.7 per cent) and Vicinity Centres (down 0.1 per cent).

Healthcare companies (down 0.2 per cent) were also weaker with shares in EBOS declining 1.3 per cent and Resmed shedding 1.2 per cent.

Wall Street churned to a mixed finish after a highly anticipated report showed inflation accelerated across the country last month, but not by much more than expected.

The S&P 500 edged up by 0.1 per cent after flipping between small gains and losses a few times through the day. The Dow Jones dropped 0.2 per cent and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.3 per cent.


The modest moves followed a shaky immediate reaction to the inflation report across financial markets, where bond yields and stock prices swung back and forth several times. The report said US consumers paid prices last month that were 3.7 per cent higher than a year earlier, up from July’s inflation rate of 3.2 per cent.

That’s discouraging for shoppers paying higher prices, but much of the acceleration was because of higher fuel costs, which can swing very sharply and quickly. Ignoring those, underlying inflation trends still look to be pointing toward continued moderation, economists said. Inflation has been generally cooling since peaking above 9 per cent last year.

The inflation report was so highly anticipated because it will help steer what the Federal Reserve does next on interest rates. The Fed has already hiked its main rate to the highest level in more than two decades, which hurts prices for stocks and other investments, and the hope on Wall Street is that inflation has cooled enough for it to be done.

Wednesday’s data likely keeps the Fed on track to keep rates steady at its meeting next week, said Gargi Chaudhuri, head of iShares Investment Strategy, Americas. It could also mean trends continue in such a way that the Fed does not hike rates any more during this cycle.

But she also said expectations among traders on Wall Street for cuts to interest rates next year may be too aggressive. Such cuts can act like steroids for stocks and other investments, but inflation is still above the Fed’s target of 2 per cent.

“If anything, higher headline inflation is proof that the Fed will need to keep rates higher for longer and that heavy rate cuts next year are mispriced,” Chaudhuri said.

Stocks of airlines were some of the biggest losers in the S&P 500 after a couple warned of the hit to profits they’re taking because of higher costs.

American Airlines cut its forecast for profits during the summer because fuel costs are running higher than it expected. It also had to pay about $US230 million ($358 million) in retroactive pay to pilots after they ratified a new labor contract. Its stock fell 5.7 per cent.

Spirit Airlines said it’s also paying higher fuel costs this summer than expected, roughly $US3.06 per gallon instead of the $US2.80 it had earlier forecast.

On the winning end of Wall Street were high-growth stocks that could be big beneficiaries if the Fed is indeed done hiking interest rates. High rates hurt all kinds of investments, but they often most hurt technology companies and others promising big growth far out in the future.

Amazon climbed 2.6 per cent and was one of the strongest forces pushing upward on the S&P 500. Microsoft gained 1.3 per cent, and Nvidia rose 1.4 per cent.

In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury edged down to 4.26 per cent from 4.27 per cent late Tuesday. It had swung as high as 4.34 per cent immediately after the inflation report.

The two-year Treasury yield, which moves more on expectations for Fed action, slipped to 4.99 per cent from 5.02 per cent late Tuesday. It also leaped earlier and was as high as 5.07 per cent a minute after the inflation report’s release, as traders digested the numbers.

The report said that prices paid by US consumers rose 0.3 per cent in August from July, after ignoring costs for food, petrol and other energy prices that can swing quickly. That was a touch faster than the 0.2 per cent month-over-month inflation rate that economists expected.

With AP

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