The ASX rebounded to winning ways last week as tech stocks helped lift the index to its sixth weekly gain from the last seven. News of the US Federal Reserve’s corporate bond buying program catapulted shares higher, while strong US retail sales helped the cause. The growing pain of Australia’s unemployment crisis weighed on the market late in the week, however, the ASX 200 still managed to climb 1.6% to 5,942.6 points.
Which shares excelled?
Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals (ASX: CUV) was the best-performing stock among ASX 200 constituents last week, leaping 21.3%. Although the company did not release any news across the week, it is possible that the rise was attributed to a high volume of short positions closed out. The stock is among the most-shorted shares on the market, meaning that sudden rises in its share price can be exacerbated when those holders buy back the underlying stock.
Running hot from news that it is selling Healius Primary Care medical centres to BGH Capital for $500 million, shares in Healius (ASX: HLS) soared 19.8%. The company has already signalled that it will use the sale proceeds to reduce the company’s debt position and also pursue investment opportunities.
Another stock from the health sector to perform well was Mesoblast (ASX: MSB), which surged 15%. The company is joining the ASX 200 index from Monday as part of the June quarterly rebalance, which means that it is likely to have caught the attention of fund managers last week in the lead-up to the rebalance.
One of the market’s biggest gainers was Appen (ASX: APX), which underpinned the strength of the tech sector last week. Shares in the machine learning and AI developer advanced by 14.7% to $33.83. Buying interest came in the wake of a broker upgrade from one of the major banking institutions, who initiated coverage for the stock and set a price target of $38 per share.
Viva Energy Group (ASX: VEA) joined the winners list thanks to a better-than-expected trading update. The oil marketer laid down a first-half guidance that topped the market’s expectations, including forecast underlying net profit after tax between $20 million to $50 million. As a result of the update, shareholders cheered the news, pushing shares in Viva Energy higher by 14.2%.
Elsewhere, the digital payments segment remained popular, with Afterpay (ASX: APT) and Pushpay Holdings (ASX: PPH) up 13.2% and 12.8% respectively. They were joined by the likes of AP Eagers (ASX: APE), Breville Group (ASX: BRG), NIB Holdings (ASX: NHF), Netwealth (ASX: NWL), Seek (ASX: SEK), NextDC (ASX: NXT) and WiseTech Global (ASX: WTC), each of which gained more than 10% last week.
Which shares dragged on the market?
Having traded ex-dividend on Friday courtesy of a special payment worth $0.373, Orora (ASX: ORA) was at the top of the list in terms of worst-performing shares valued in excess of $1 billion. The dividend will be paid to eligible holders of Orora shares on June 29, with the proceeds coming from the company’s decision to sell its fibre business to Nippon Paper. The slim-lined business meant that the price was going to adjust in any case, eventually closing the week at $2.31 per share.
Following closely was Megaport (ASX: MP1), which slumped 9.4%. Weighing on the company was news that one of its major holders, Digital MP, had sold 7.7 million shares in the company, which was equivalent to 5% of Megaport’s issued capital. While the seller still retains 2 million shares in the company, the decision scared shareholders nonetheless.
Despite its recent resilience throughout COVID-19, Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG) fell sharply last week. Shares in FMG dropped by 6.9%, with the price of iron ore easing slightly during the week. Some investors may be concerned around the prospect of a second wave of Coronavirus cases emerging in China, which has the potential to weigh on iron ore demand, however, Fortescue’s rivals fared significantly better despite the same prevailing risk.
Also on the back of concerns around growing COVID case numbers, travel and leisure stocks were thumped. News that Australia’s international travel ban has been extended til September, and even then unlikely to be lifted, also weighed on the segment. Investors may be starting to get apprehensive that these businesses could be in recovery mode for a lot longer than anticipated. Some of the worst-hit shares included Air New Zealand (ASX: AIZ), down 6.6%, Sydney Airport (ASX: SYD), down 6.4%, Star Entertainment Group (ASX: SGR), down 6.1%, Corporate Travel Management (ASX: CTD), down 5.7%, and Flight Centre (ASX: FLT), down 4.8%.
This week’s trading outlook
Following a weak offshore trading session on Friday night, global COVID cases reaching record highs and the deferral of some restrictions being lifted in Victoria, the local market is poised to open sharply lower on Monday morning.
In terms of the economic calendar, Australian manufacturing and services PMI data will be released on Tuesday. In the US, all eyes will be on the same indicators, in addition to home sales, durable goods orders, jobless claims, as well as personal income and spending.
Trading ex-dividend in the week ahead will be Harvey Norman (ASX: HVN), on Monday, and Scentre Group (ASX: SCG), on Wednesday.
Metcash (ASX: MTS) will unveil its FY20 results on Monday, which could prove volatile for the company’s shares. Metcash shares were trading near a one-month high on Friday before late-week selling across the ASX pushed its shares into negative territory.
A host of companies edged higher throughout the week to reach new all-time highs, including Xero (ASX: XRO), Pushpay Holdings, Kogan (ASX: KGN) and Omni Bridgeway (ASX: OBL). Even SelfWealth (ASX: SWF) shares touched a new record last week, closing at $0.39.
We’ll be back next week with another Weekly ASX Trading Wrap Up – until then, have a great week!
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