After a shaky start to the week, the local market ended the week on firmer ground to set a new closing record. The ASX 200 closed on 7,394.40 points, up 0.6% since last Friday. There were mixed fortunes this week among battery metals stocks, while gold names largely tumbled.
Which shares excelled?
On the back of a material investment in its Dubbo project, Australian Strategic Minerals (ASX: ASM) was among the best-performing mid-to-large-cap ASX stocks, despite a poor session on Friday. The company signed a conditional framework agreement with a consortium of South Korean investors for a 20% stake in exchange for US$250 million. The deal also covers a ten-year offtake agreement for up to 2,800 tonnes per annum of neodymium-iron-boron alloy. Shares in ASM gained around 15%.
There were strong increases for biodegradable medical device-maker Polynovo (ASX: PNV), which bounced back from a recent sell-down, and cloud-based call recording software firm Dubber (ASX: DUB), which at one stage appeared to break out of a trading range that it has been in since early May, only to slide back into that zone today.
Elsewhere, retail duo Temple & Webster (ASX: TPW) and Nick Scali (ASX: NCK) had a bright week. There was no particular catalyst for TPW, albeit the stock increased each trading session. With its FY21 earnings due to be released on Tuesday next week, investors may be anticipating a strong set of results. Meanwhile, Nick Scali confirmed it is in non-exclusive discussions with Greenlit Brands regarding a potential acquisition of the Plush Sofas business.
Cimic Group (ASX: CIM) gained around 10% this week on the back of its half-year earnings results. The construction business announced a 10.6% rise in group revenue, as well as modest increases to EBITDA and NPAT. Free operating cash flow improved by $166.3 million, and the company declared a partly-franked dividend of $0.42 per share given its balance sheet holds $4.3 billion in liquidity.
Other stocks on the move this week included Pilbara Minerals (ASX: PLS), which gained amid positive sentiment from some other lithium stocks that reported this week, Iluka Resources (ASX: ILU), Coronado Resources (ASX: CRN), CSL (ASX: CSL), Nuix (ASX: NXL) and NIB Holdings (ASX: NHF).
Which shares dragged on the market?
Piedmont Lithium (ASX: PLL) was one of the laggards this week, with its share price sinking as much as 28% at one stage, including a drop of more than 20% on Wednesday alone. The fall prompted an ASX price query, with the company unable to directly attribute the price action to any specific event, instead noting media speculation about upcoming local zoning and mining permit approvals in relation to its projects in the US.
Fellow battery metals stock Novonix (ASX: NVX) also found itself on the short end of the stick, albeit there was no news associated with the company. The stock had a strong run the week prior, which may have prompted some profit takers to emerge when the ASX started the week on shaky territory following a weak lead from the US. That session alone accounted for a 10% drop, with some buying confidence creeping back thereafter.
News of a record full-year result did little to shore up support in cloud-computing and ICT solutions provider Data#3 (ASX: DTL), which slumped around 12% across the week. The devil was in the detail of the unaudited FY21 result, however, as consolidated net profit before tax of $36.8 million was impacted by product delivery delays in the second-half of the financial year arising from the global chip shortage. An estimated $3 million tied to a growing backorder list is set to be realised in FY22.
Gold miners were also weaker on the whole this week, with the weakness tied to a slightly lower gold price, but more so recent updates in the sector that have disappointed shareholders. Leading the losses this week were the likes of Silver Lake Resources (ASX: SLR), Evolution Mining (ASX: EVN), which also announced a major capital raise, Chalice Mining (ASX: CHN), Westgold Resources (ASX: WGX), Northern Star Resources (ASX: NST) and St Barbara (ASX: SBM).
Meanwhile, electronic design software business Altium (ASX: ALU) weighed on the tech sector after its takeover suitor, Autodesk, formally withdrew its bid for the company. The American software firm had offered $38.50 per share to acquire Altium, an offer that was previously knocked back by the Board as it eyes a target of US$500 million in revenue by 2025.
Finally, shares in Crown Resorts (ASX: CWN) were also under pressure as the casino and hotel operator faced increasing scrutiny about its ability to hold a casino licence. During the week, counsel assisting Victoria’s royal commission made the recommendation that Crown be found unfit to operate its Melbourne casino. That was followed by news on Friday that its peer, Star Entertainment (ASX: SGR), has withdrawn its merger proposal in response to the uncertainty and a lack of engagement.
We’ll be back next week with another Weekly ASX Trading Wrap Up – until then, have a great week!
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