ASX drifts lower in ‘directionless’ trading

The Australian sharemarket drifted lower on Tuesday in a placid day of trading as investors waited for Wall St to come back to life after the Memorial Day holiday.

The benchmark ASX 200 slipped 21.6 points, or 0.28 per cent, to close at 7766.7, while the broader All Ordinaries index fell 23.7 points, or 0.29 per cent, to finish at 8034.9.

Tech stocks fell 19.5 points, or 0.63 per cent, to finish at 3056.5 points.

Ten of 11 industry sectors ended in the red, led by industrials with a one per cent fall.

Discretionary stocks fell 0.68 per cent on weak retail sales data from the ABS, which showed turnover rose 0.1 per cent in April.

“Underlying retail spending continues to be weak with a small rise in turnover in April not enough to make up for a fall in March,” ABS head of retail statistics Ben Dorber said.

“Since the start of 2024, trend retail turnover has been flat as cautious consumers reduce their discretionary spending.”

JB Hi-Fi fell 0.72 per cent to $57.60 a share, while Kogan dropped 0.65 per cent to $4.59.

But overall, the report delivered some comfort to the market, RBC Capital Markets head of equities MD Karen Jorritsma said, with the below-expectation figure further easing fears of a Reserve Bank hike.

asx drifts lower in ‘directionless’ trading

ASX drifts lower in ‘directionless’ trading

“The number came in at 0.1 and the market was looking for 0.2, so I think that’s probably the good thing that gave the market a bit of comfort,” she said.

“Volatility is pretty low, we’re not seeing a choppy market.

“If you look at how the market traded this morning, after 11.30am it had a little bit of a run up and since then it just faded into the afternoon, which Australia famously likes to do.”

Wall St was closed overnight for Memorial Day, leading to “directionless” trading on the ASX, Ms Jorritsma added.

“We’re seeing directionless trading with a lack of lead from offshore. You’ve got no North American markets.”

The big miners edged lower after iron ore prices fell below $120 per tonne overnight.

BHP dipped 0.16 per cent to $45.08 and Rio Tinto eased 0.05 per cent to close at $131.62. Fortescue ended flat at $26.51.

The big banks were mixed ahead of Wednesday’s inflation print, with Commonwealth Bank rising 0.17 per cent to $120.31, ANZ lifting 0.49 per cent to $28.57 and NAB edging up 0.15 per cent to $34.28, while Westpac slipped 0.41 per cent to $26.64.

asx drifts lower in ‘directionless’ trading

In corporate news, health imaging company Pro Medicus lifted 0.89 per cent to $114.25 a share after announcing it had secured five contracts in the US worth at least $45m.

Uranium miner Boss Energy dived 11.14 per cent to $4.74 on the news company insiders, including chief executive Duncan Craib and Chariman Wyatt Buck, had sold some of their shares.

The top gainer on the ASX was titanium company Iperionx, which soared 10.5 per cent to $2.42 a share.

The largest laggard was Peter Warren Automotive, which sunk 12.6 per cent to $1.87 after releasing a trading update that forecast a fall in full-year profits to between $52m and $57m.

The company blamed increased competition in the car dealership space and lower gross profit margins on new cars, a fall in consumer demand for new cars as a result of cost-of-living pressures and an increase in interest costs for the expected earnings fall.

The Aussie dollar gained 0.18 per cent against the Greenback to buy US66.6c at the closing bell.

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