The start of sanctions against Russia ended up soothing markets rather than rattling them, with Asian markets all closing higher as sentiment improved. However, volatility indicators remain high and traders were jittery.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 improved from a negative start to close 0.6 per cent higher at 7205.7 points, a gain of 44.4 points.
The market was buoyant with only 56 companies closing lower, mostly in the utilities and consumer discretionary sectors. The big banks were split, with Commonwealth Bank and Westpac higher, while NAB, ANZ Bank and Macquarie closed lower.
MLC Asset Management’s Anthony Golowenko said the ASX was buffered by the geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe, like all stock markets, and this uncertainty was making investors jumpy. And, some stocks were priced extremely high leaving them vulnerable to sell-offs.
For example, he wasn’t surprised to see Domino’s fall 14 per cent to a two-year low of $86.14 after reporting a 6.9 per cent drop in half-year profits and warning it may not meet full-year forecasts. The stock was priced at 42 times earnings.
“Unless you are delivering that growth implied by valuations, sustaining that premium rating is difficult,” Mr Golowenko said, adding he preferred KFC and Taco Bell owner Collins Foods, which was priced at 28 times earnings.
Mr Golowenko also said he favored Coles over Woolworths, which ended Wednesday 1.4 per cent higher despite reporting falling earnings and reducing its interim dividend.
“It seems that Coles has been able to navigate COVID-19 in a better way, but both of them are incredibly well run businesses,” he said.
After reporting results on Wednesday Scentre Group declined by 4.4 per cent but Stockland gained 3.5 per cent and WiseTech Global gained 4.2 per cent.
Meanwhile, new data showing annual wages growth was at a seven-year high of 2.3 per cent prompted recalculations on how soon the Reserve Bank of Australia could start lifting interest rates.
“With inflation already running at 3.5 per cent per year, that could push the consumer price index over 4 per cent in the first quarter of this year, which could prompt the RBA to raise interest rates by 25 basis points in May,″ Head of Investments and Capital Markets at Van Eck, Russel Chesler, said in a note to clients.
He now expected to see rates as high as 1.25 per cent by the end of this year, up from 0.1 per cent currently.
The major miners had a positive session with South32 up 3.4 per cent and Lynas Rare Earths up 5.2 per cent. BHP gained 0.6 per cent and Rio Tinto closed at 1.2 per cent ahead of reporting full-year results on Wednesday evening.
There were also big gains in HUB24, up 9.9 per cent, and Tyro Payments which gained 8.6 per cent after falling sharply earlier this week. Zip Co gained 8.4 per cent after falling for four sessions in a row.
But Costa Group slid by 8.6 per cent and JB Hi-Fi declined by 5.2 per cent.