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ASX ends week in the green: Non-essential retail rises as ABS figures show record online spike

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The ‘remarkably resilient’ ASX finished the week in the green, with non-essential retailing stocks lifting as figures showed a national online sales record. The Australian share market snapped a two-day losing streak to end the week in positive territory, with miners and non-essential retailing among the gains.

The S&P/ASX200 index closed 0.5 percent higher at 7522.9, while the All Ordinaries Index gained 0.55 percent to 7826.7. “Considering we’re coming off the back of 11 months of gains, the market has been remarkably resilient under the circumstances,” CommSec market analyst Steven Daghlian said.

He said most sectors fared well, but there was a shortage of company news given that the official earnings season concluded this week. However, in economic news, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed retail trade fell 2.7 percent in July compared to the previous month. But that was driven by sharp falls in locked-down NSW, down 8.9 percent month-on-month, and South Australia, down 3.3 percent.

All other states and territories had higher retail trade, led by Tasmania, up 2.7 percent. Food retailing was 2.3 percent higher, while clothing, footwear, and personal accessory sales slumped 15.4 percent. Online sales rocketed to $3.7bn (the highest level in the data history), up 19.3 percent compared to June.

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Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said the unsurprising spike in e-commerce demand added to supply chain stress and warned shoppers to be prepared before the festive season. “Give plenty of time for your items to be delivered, and it’s also an important reminder not to leave your Christmas shopping till the last minute,” Mr. Zahra said.

Coles dipped 0.67 percent to $17.74, while bigger rival Woolworths added 0.62 percent to $40.72. Among consumer discretionary stocks, Dusk jumped 7.17 percent to $3.29, Temple and Webster advanced 3.28 percent to $13.86, Super Retail gained 1.8 percent to $12.42, Nick Scali appreciated 1.22 percent to $12.45, and Kogan lifted 1.29 percent to $11.01, Still, Harvey Norman backtracked 1.5 percent to $5.22.

Mosaic Brands, which owns fashion chains such as Noni B and Rockmans, said it was not ready to exit its trading halt and announce a proposed capital raising. BHP rose 0.98 percent to $42.35, Rio Tinto jumped 2.5 percent to $111.37, and Fortescue added 0.68 percent to $20.85.

“Impressive improvements there, considering that the iron ore price fell 2.7 percent yesterday to $US139/t. That means iron ore prices have fallen 11% this week,” Mr. Daghlian said. Chief executive Ivan Tchourilov said Alumina had been a star performer since reporting its half-year net profit last week, rallying 18 percent and reaching highs not seen since being sold off in February 2020.

“There’s still an appetite for certain materials and stocks within the mining sector, even as key commodities such as iron ore have fallen out of vogue,” he said. Orocobre was a strong performer, leaping 7 percent to $9.79, as was fellow lithium miner Pilbara Minerals, up 2.26 percent at $2.26, while Lynas Rare Earths gained 3.37 percent to $7.06. Share in Alumina gained 6.68 percent to $1.99.

Energy stocks firmed after the oil price rose about 2 percent to just shy of $US70 per barrel, Mr Daghlian said. Woodside rose 0.76 percent to $19.90, Santos added 0.64 percent to $6.25, and Origin gained 0.9 percent to $4.46. ANZ eased four cents to $27.87, Commonwealth Bank improved 0.46 percent to $101.84, National Australia Bank found 0.74 percent to $28.70, and Westpac inched one cent lower to $26.02.

Buy-now-pay-later provider Afterpay dropped 2.77 percent to $130.71. Mr. Tchourilov said biotech company Mesoblast had suffered “a week to forget” after the FDA questioned its flagship drug candidate, used to treat acute respiratory distress syndrome in adults.

“This led to a 20 percent decline over two days, which left investors reeling and in the all-too-familiar territory,” he said. “The stock has managed to recover somewhat, rallying 5.8 percent today (to $1.71), but it’s down 70 percent in two years with problem after problem. “Investors have been burnt by them one too many times and have lost confidence, at least in the short term.”

AMA Group responded to media suggestions it was scrambling for funding options, insisting its liquidity remained strong as it undertook a capital structure review but conceding the Covid-related drop in car crash repairs was having an impact. “Not surprising that smash repairs during the pandemic perhaps haven’t been getting a huge amount of business because there are fewer cars on the road,” Mr. Daghlian said. Shares in AMA slumped 5.62 percent to 42 cents. The Aussie dollar bought 74.22 US cents, 53.66 British pence, and 62.48 Euro cents in afternoon trade. Originally published as ‘Remarkably resilient,’ the Australian sharemarket ends the week in the green, with miners and consumer discretionary among gains.

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