Some modest losses from the major banks also weighed on the market. Commonwealth Bank fell 0.8 per cent to $73.15, Westpac slipped 1 per cent to $26.53, ANZ declined 1.2 per cent to $27.69 and NAB closed at $24.60, down 0.5 per cent.
Wesfarmers shares slid heavily on Tuesday as the company traded ex-dividend for the first time since the Coles demerger. Alumina also traded ex-dividend. Wesfarmers shares fell 7.2 per cent to $32.70 while Alumina declined 8 per cent to $2.52.
The information technology sector fell, led by Afterpay Touch, which reported a larger than expected net loss of $22.2 million for the first six months of the fiscal year on the back of rising employment expenses. Its shares fell 11.5 per cent to $18.15. WiseTech Global slid 4.2 per cent to $18.25 and Altium declined 1.8 per cent to $33.44.
Shares in software developer IRESS fell 6.1 per cent to $12.26 after ASX Ltd announced it had entered into an underwriting agreement to sell its 18.6 per cent holding in the company. The sale, worth $11.95 a share, will be handled by UBS and is expected to gross $385 million for ASX.
Caltex shares rose 4.7 per cent to $28.90 after the company’s net profit result beat the top end of its guidance. The company also said it would return $260 million to shareholders through a buyback.
Bingo Industries shares climbed 5.9 per cent to $1.36 as the company reported its interim earnings, a week after it cut its profit forecasts by up to 20 per cent. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will announce its decision about Bingo’s proposed $577.5 million deal with Ian Malouf’s Dial-a-Dump business on Thursday.
UBS upgraded its price target on Appen on the back of what it said was an “exceptionally strong result”, adding its 2019 guidance appeared conservative. The tech company’s second-half earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation was 16 per cent ahead of the broker’s expectations, with analyst Josh Kannourakis noting the risks appeared skewed to the upside. Some of these upside risks included a $6 million incremental technology investment and the growth opportunity presented by China. The broker upgraded its earnings per share expectations for the next three fiscal years by 10 per cent, 17 per cent and 20 per cent respectively on the back of higher margins. UBS dropped its rating on Appen from “buy” to “neutral” but lifted its price target on the company from $16 to $24.
What moved the market
The surge in the Shanghai Composite on Monday has left market watchers scratching their heads. While most other benchmark indices in the region rose less than 1 per cent, the Shanghai Composite soared 5.6 per cent on the US’s extension of the deadline for a tariff increase on Chinese goods. “Although an agreement to end the trade war with the US would be good news for China, we doubt that it would prevent the country’s economy from weakening further,” said Capital Economics market economist Oliver Jones. “And the share prices of Chinese firms in the same sectors listed in Hong Kong actually fell.”
The threat of strike in the South African mining industry pushed the price of palladium higher on Monday, with the precious metal hitting its highest level to date. At least 15 mining firms in South Africa have received notices that workers will strike next week in support of colleagues at Sibanye-Stillwater who downed tools in protest over wages and job cuts. South Africa is home to the world’s biggest platinum group metals deposits, which includes palladium, and accounts for over 90 per cent of global output. A shortage in supply has been the key driver behind an 80 per cent rise in the price of palladium since mid-August.
New Zealand dollar
The New Zealand dollar climbed to a near three-week high on Monday afternoon amid positive trade sentiment and impressive retail sales. The dollar rose 0.9 per cent on Monday after retail sales volumes in the country rose more than expected for the final quarter of 2018. The 1.7 per cent growth smashed economists expectations of a 0.5 per cent gain. More positive investor sentiment following signs that negotiations between the US and China were progressing well also helped to lift the New Zealand dollar later in the session, with commodity currencies in particular performing well.
Consumer confidence weakened slightly last week in the face of the increasing prospect the Reserve Bank of Australia will cut rates, and issues around China’s importation of Australian coal. Despite a small dip, the ANZ-Roy Morgan Australian Consumer Confidence index is remaining above the long-run average. “The fall was somewhat surprising considering strong employment growth and reasonable wage data,” said ANZ’s head of Australian economics David Plank. “The turn to a more negative outlook by one of the major Australian banks and news stories about a ban on Australian coal imports by Chinese port authorities that were then denied by authorities may have offset the positive economic data.”
William is a UTS journalism graduate and has worked at The Sydney Morning Herald. He now covers markets at The Australian Financial Review and keeps a close eye on IPOs.