Australian sharemarket pulls back after strong run, banks and energy stocks among losses

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Australian sharemarket pulls back after strong run, banks and energy stocks among losses

The ASX pulled back after its recent strong run, with Fortescue among the losers after being forced to release first-half profit guidance.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index slumped below the 6800-point mark in the final moments of trade before ticking up slightly to close 0.34 per cent lower at 6800.4.

The All Ordinaries Index finished 0.4 per cent weaker at 7078.9.

CommSec analyst Tom Piotrowski said the futures market had pointed to early selling.

“I think you’d basically characterise this as a bit of a consolidation in the context of the performance that we’ve seen over the course of the last couple of weeks,” Mr Piotrowski said.

Fortescue Metals was forced to report it expected net profit of up to $US4.1bn ($A5.3bn) for the first half, on an unaudited basis, compared to a record $US4.7bn ($A6.08bn) for the entire 2020 financial year, after chairman Andrew Forrest referred to December results in an ABC broadcast.

Camera IconAndrew Forrest let the cat out of the bag with the December figure, forcing Fortescue Metals to disclose to the market. Credit: News Corp Australia, Colin Murty/The Australian

The miner’s shares dropped 2.21 per cent to $24.32.

“Probably a little bit surprising to see this stock fade today,” Mr Piotrowski said.

“Rather that falling foul of ASX disclosure regulations, they have come out and affirmed their guidance.

“The market seems to be a little bit disappointed with it. Maybe they were expecting more.

“The stock has run pretty hard already: in December, it was up 28 per cent.”

Rio Tinto was down 2.1 per cent to $119.32 and BHP was 1.89 per cent weaker at $46.13.

Energy stocks fell, reflecting consolidation after “quite a nice bounce” over recent weeks, Mr Piotrowski said.

Woodside Petroleum backtracked 1.45 per cent to $26.56, Oil Search gave up 2.03 per cent to $4.35, Origin retreated 2.29 per cent to $5.11 and Santos lost 2.57 per cent to $7.21.

Camera IconEnergy stocks were weaker but have had a good run of late. Credit: Supplied

There was also pullback among buy-now-pay-later stocks after stellar runs Mr Piotrowski described as “breathtaking”.

“Sometimes you just have to sit down to reflect on just how strongly these organisations have performed,” he said.

Market leader Afterpay, which closed at another fresh record high on Thursday, dropped 5.15 per cent to $141.33.

Smaller rival Zip Co eased 1.77 per cent to $7.23.

Banks, which have also been strong of late, also backtracked.

ANZ dipped 0.4 per cent to $24.64, Commonwealth Bank slid 0.27 per cent to $85.09, National Australia Bank shed 0.74 per cent to $24.12 and Westpac was 0.18 per cent cheaper at $21.78.

Among the winners, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare provided a trading update for the nine months ended December 31, saying operating revenue had surged as hospital hardware sales soared amid elevated hospitalisation rates for COVID-19.

Camera IconFisher & Paykel Healthcare equipment was in demand as COVID-19 hospitalisation rates surged. Credit: istock

The company said it expected full-year earnings to be higher than previously thought, lifting its shares 5.86 per cent to $32.50.

Biotech giant CSL put on 2.17 per cent to $274.60.

Rare earths miner Lynas announced it had inked a contract to build a separation facility in the US, a co-funded collaboration with the Department of Defense.

Mr Piotrowski said it was a significant development for Lynas, which jumped 13.7 per cent to $5.56.

Bunnings owner Wesfarmers firmed 2.24 per cent to $53.41, supermarket chain Woolworths advanced 1.12 per cent to $40.76 and rival Coles found 0.44 per cent to $18.16.

The Aussie dollar was fetching 77.45 US cents, 56.47 British pence and 63.61 Euro cents in afternoon trade.

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