ASX Trading Wrap: Mesoblast and A2 Milk sink, Afterpay hits a new all-time high

ASX Trading Wrap: Mesoblast and A2 Milk sink, Afterpay hits a new all-time high

Although the ASX drifted from its near ten-month high, the stock market recorded its seventh consecutive weekly gain, advancing 0.5% as investors received a glimpse of an improving local economy.

With the ASX 200 sitting on 6,675.5 points, gains were underpinned by Afterpay, which joined an exclusive club, albeit the latest COVID outbreak in NSW, as well as heavy selling in the likes of A2 Milk, Mesoblast and QBE capped the market’s rise.

 

Which shares excelled?

The story of the week was Afterpay (ASX: APT), which despite a pull-back on Friday, managed to set a new all-time high this week. Shares in the buy-now pay-later juggernaut rose 10.2% across the week, with one of the key catalysts being the stock’s soon-to-be inclusion in the ASX 50 and ASX 20 indexes. As its presence extends across key markets throughout the world, investors are backing the company’s growth trajectory, which now sees Afterpay valued at more than $30 billion.

Afterpay’s strong performance also had a flow-on effect for fellow digital payments companies, including its smaller US peer, Sezzle (ASZ: SZL), which gained 7.3%, and EML Payments (ASX: EML), which advanced 13.1%.

Elsewhere, gold stocks managed to rebound after a disappointing run across the last month. Despite Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell not only upgrading the US economic outlook and effectively casting away doubts that inflation might accelerate beyond its target, the price of the precious metal responded to the fact that the Fed is expected to keep interest rates at zero until at least 2024.

A rising Australian dollar did little to diminish the appetite for beaten-down gold stocks, with names like Perseus Mining (ASX: PRU), Zimplats Holdings (ASX: ZIM), OceanaGold Corp (ASX: OGC) and Gold Road Resources (ASX: GOR) leading the rebound.

Shares in Codan (ASX: CDA) were higher by 9% this week after the company delivered an upbeat trading announcement for shareholders. In what was a volatile week of trading, the stock turned on news that demand for its metal detectors remains strong, and alongside other growth initiatives, the company expects to record a net profit after tax of $40 million for 1H FY21, with a $30 million order book for the second half.

Rounding things out, lithium stock Orocobre (ASX: ORE) cemented its stellar run with another fine performance this week, while Bapcor (ASX: BAP) was leaping higher after its trading update for FY21 showed a 26% increase in group revenue for the first five months of the new financial year.

 

 

Which shares dragged on the market?

Hit by two announcements that disappointed shareholders, Mesoblast (ASX: MSB) was among the worst-performing shares with a 47.6%drop across the trading week. Today, the company revealed that a trial studying its COVID-19 treatment would be unlikely to meet its primary endpoint relating to a 30-day mortality reduction. Earlier in the week, the company also announced that its heart failure drug, Revascor, failed to meet its primary endpoint goal despite signs of mortality reduction.

A2 Milk (ASX: A2M) exited a trading halt on Friday afternoon only to be greeted with a wave of selling after the company slashed its revenue and margin guidance. For the second time in four months, management revised its figures amid a slower-than-expected recovery in the daigou channel, in addition to the impact of ongoing international border restrictions. The stock plummeted 22.4% across the week, in turn also hitting the likes of Synlait Milk (ASX: SM1) and Blackmores (ASX: BKL), which are leveraged as a supplier and peer of A2 Milk respectively.

On the back of a significant writedown of its goodwill assets in North America, shares in QBE Insurance Group (ASX: QBE) tanked 10.8%. Amid the impact of COVID-19, low investment returns, plus hurricanes and wildfires in the US, management booked more than US$600 million in writedowns, leading to an expected full-year statutory loss of US$1.5 billion.

Other shares on the retreat this week included Yancoal (ASX: YAL) and New Hope (ASX: NHC), both hit by the market dynamics for coal following China’s reported ban on Australian imports of the commodity.

There was also trouble for Webjet (ASX: WEB) amid the latest COVID outbreak in NSW forcing border restrictions, while shares in Viva Energy Group (ASX: VEA) dipped after reporting an anticipated 21% slide in EBITDA.

Finally, Genworth Mortgage Insurance (ASX: GMA) sounded the alarm on its dividend after taking a $110 million hit in relation to a change to its reversing methodology.

 

We’ll be back next week with another Weekly ASX Trading Wrap Up – until then, have a great weekend!

 

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