With iron ore prices still in freefall, and gold prices also sinking towards the end of the trading week, the ASX could only muster a flat performance this week, closing on 7,403.70 points. Tech, energy and real estate names fared well, while interest in uranium and battery metals names remained at peak levels.
Which shares excelled?
Despite no price-sensitive news out of the company, Liontown Resources (ASX: LTR) was one of the week’s top stocks, climbing more than 35%. The stock has been buoyed by its upcoming inclusion into the ASX 300 index, a move which often prompts buying among institutional investors. That comes as broader sentiment in the lithium and battery metals sector has been on a tear recently.
On that note, Pilbara Minerals (ASX: PLS) had a standout week as its auction of 8000 tonnes of hard rock lithium made headlines. The company’s second-ever auction on the Battery Material Exchange fetched a price of $US2,240 a tonne, significantly higher than its inaugural auction. The stock recorded a new all-time high before shedding around half of its weekly gains.
Sayona Mining (ASX: SYA) has been another name climbing amid the lithium frenzy lately, with this week proving no exception. The company also announced it is planning a further boost to its Abitibi lithium hub, with the potential for a “significant” resource expansion at its North American Lithium mine in Quebec.
Meanwhile, uranium stocks continue to see strong buying interest as demand for the physical commodity is underpinned by the Sprott Physical Uranium Trust, which has increased its stockpile of uranium 45% over the last month. Energy Resources Australia (ASX: ERA) and Paladin Energy (ASX: PDN) were two of the biggest movers, with the price of uranium rising around 40% this month.
With oil prices higher, a relief rally among oil and gas players helped Woodside Petroleum (ASX: WPL) and Karoon Energy (ASX: KAR), with the latter climbing by more than 25% this week. Karoon was also bolstered by news the company had settled a lawsuit, reducing uncertainty about claims to the effect of US$100 million. On Thursday Karoon announced it had entered into a deed of settlement with Pitkin, its former partner in Block Z-38, agreeing to pay US$9.6 million as means to release it from the block without any admission of liability.
Other stocks that were on the march higher this week include Altium (ASX: ALU), Telix Pharmaceuticals (ASX: TLX), Calix (ASX: CXL), Imugene (ASX: IMU) and Coronado Global Resources (ASX: CRN).
Which shares dragged on the market?
For the second week running, Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG) was one of the worst-performing names across the market, albeit this time it wasn’t ex-dividend trading playing a role. Diving iron ore prices have weighed on the miner, not to mention the likes of other major players such as Mineral Resources (ASX: MIN) and Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO). With China curbing its steel output, iron ore prices have now plummeted by more than US$120 per tonne from their peak.
Abandoned takeover plans have hit Iress (ASX: IRE), with the company’s share price sinking sharply on Friday. Last month Iress allowed EQT the opportunity to complete exclusive due diligence on the proposed transaction, and it was only a week ago that the Australian fintech granted an additional 10 days of exclusivity. However, the two parties have been unable to strike a deal, with talks coming to an abrupt halt and prompting those who speculated about the transaction to sell the stock.
While a number of companies are using their Investor Day to make an impression, that didn’t pan out the way shareholders in Brambles (ASX: BXB) would have hoped for. The company, which deals with pallets, crates and containers, held off on providing any specific guidance but forecast relatively sluggish underlying profit growth of 1-2%, while also confirming an expected outflow of US$200 million in free cash flow, contrasting last year’s strong result where timing benefits played a role.
Aspiring zero-carbon lithium producer Vulcan Energy Resources (ASX: VUL) didn’t enjoy the same share of spoils as that of its peers this week, however, that wasn’t through a lack of investor interest. In fact, the company announced a $200 million placement at $13.50 per share, with a number of ESG investors and the likes of Gina Rinehart supporting the deal. Shares fell once the stock came out of its trading halt, which is a fairly common occurrence when companies raise capital at a discount, in this instance, at a discount of 15% compared with the share price before being halted.
Gold prices were trading around US$1760 per ounce at the close of trade on Friday, and after the precious metal fell more than 2% from its mid-week high, gold producers were under pressure and circling new yearly lows towards the back-end of the week.
Elsewhere, shares in Australian Ethical Investment (ASX: AEF) pared last week’s strong gains, while out-of-favour duo AMP (ASX: AMP) and AGL (ASX: AGL) hit new 52-week lows. They weren’t the only ones under pressure, however, as Sezzle (ASX: SZL) and Worley (ASX: WOR) also struggled this week, with the latter impacted by a block trade from one of its major shareholders, Jacobs Engineering.
We’ll be back next week with another Weekly ASX Trading Wrap Up – until then, have a great week!
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