ASX rises in early trade; BHP, Telstra slump

By Staff reporters

The Australian sharemarket has opened higher on the back of a strong lead from Wall Street, with US stocks recovering much of their sharp losses from a day before.

The ASX is 52.7 points or 0.7 per cent higher in early trade, with technology and consumer discretionary stocks leading the way on a busy day of results.

Wall Street is on its way to a positive session.
Wall Street is on its way to a positive session.Credit: Bloomberg

BHP shares slumped by 1 per cent after the miner warned of more than $10 billions in writedowns ahead of its results next week. Telstra was 2 per cent lower after it posted a $1 billion net profit but cut its outlook. 

Wesfarmers surged by 4 per cent after reporting a 3 per cent profit rise, while fund manager Magellan jumped by 7 per cent after posting a 24 per cent increase in net profit after tax and unveiling Sophia Rahmani as its next chief executive. She will start in May.

Origin Energy shares are 2.7 per cent higher after its profit jumped and it upped its dividend. Whitehaven slid by 3.9 per cent after cutting its dividend on the back of slumping coal prices.

Japanese group Renesas announced a $9.1 billion takeover bid for Australian software firm Altium. The Altium board has recommended that shareholders accept the offer.

Renesas will acquire shares of Altium, which is listed in Sydney but headquartered in San Diego, for a cash price of $68.50 each, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement. The deal, to be financed by bank loans and cash, represents a 33.6 per cent premium to Altium’s closing price on Wednesday.

Overnight, the S&P 500 climbed 47.45 points, or 1 per cent, to 5000.62 and clawed back more than two-thirds of its loss from Tuesday. A hotter-than-expected report on inflation forced investors to delay forecasts for when the Federal Reserve may begin cutting interest rates, potentially into the summer. Expectations for such cuts are a big reason stocks rallied to records recently.

The Dow Jones gained 0.4 per cent a day after dropping 524 points for its worst loss in nearly 11 months. The Nasdaq composite jumped 1.3 per cent.


The Australian dollar also recovered some of the ground it lost after the release of US inflation figures. It was 0.6 per cent higher at 64.92 US cents at 8.49am AEDT.

The smallest stocks, which took the hardest hit from worries about higher interest rates on Tuesday, bounced back more than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index leaped 2.4 per cent.

Helping to keep things steadier on Wall Street was a calmer bond market. Treasury yields eased after shooting upward a day earlier on expectations the Fed would keep rates high for longer. The central bank has already jacked its main interest rate to the highest level since 2001 in hopes of slowing the overall economy just enough to grind high inflation down to its target.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 4.25 per cent from 4.32 per cent late Tuesday. It’s still well above its 3.85 per cent level at the start of this month.

Critics have been arguing that stock prices may have run too far, too fast in their rally since October. A pullback could be healthy if it takes some of the “froth” out of the market, according to JJ Kinahan, CEO of IG North America.

Kinahan said he found it interesting that big recent winners like Nvidia and other chipmakers finished Tuesday well off their lows for the day. That makes him think the day’s drop “was more about taking some profits than it was panic selling” by investors.

Nvidia, which has been riding a mania around artificial-intelligence technology, rose 2.5 per cent Wednesday and was the single strongest force pushing up the S&P 500 index.

DaVita jumped 8.6 per cent for one of the S&P 500’s larger gains after the health care company reported stronger profit and revenue for the latest quarter than analysts expected.

Most companies in the S&P 500 have been topping analysts’ forecasts for the last three months of 2023. Hopes for stronger growth in 2024 from a solid economy have been another reason the S&P 500 has set 10 records already this year.

Lyft shares leaped 35.1 per cent after a wild ride in off-hours trading driven in part by a typo in its latest earnings report. The ride-hailing company reported stronger results than analysts expected, but its press release also said it expects a key measure of profitability to improve by 500 basis points, or 5 percentage points. Later, it said that should have been 50 basis points, or 0.5 percentage points.

Lyft’s stock rocketed by more than 60 per cent in after-hours trading Tuesday following the typo.

Rival Uber Technologies rose 14.7 per cent after its board authorised a program to buy back up to $US7 billion ($10.8 billion) of its stock. Investors tend to like such programs because they send cash directly to shareholders and can boost per-share profits.

In stock markets abroad, London’s FTSE 100 rose 0.7 per cent following a better-than-expected report on inflation in the United Kingdom.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.8 per cent after trading reopened there, but markets remained closed in mainland China for the Lunar New Year holiday. Stocks fell elsewhere in Asia, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 down 0.7 per cent and South Korea’s Kospi down 1.1 per cent.

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