While central banks across the world took the initiative to stimulate economic growth last week, it wasn’t enough to prevent the market from falling. Across a series of highly volatile trading sessions, concerns lingered around the economic impact of the Coronavirus, which continues to spread through an increasing number of countries. At the close of trade on Friday, the benchmark ASX 200 index was sitting on 6,216.2 points, down by 3.5% from the week prior.
Which shares excelled?
Gold stocks were one of the rare bright spots last week, with the precious metal turning out to be one of the trades of the week as the commodity posted its best weekly gain in over a decade, spiking to just shy of US$1700/oz. Beneficiaries of the rising gold price included Saracen Mineral Holdings (ASX: SAR), up 13.8%, Newcrest Mining (ASX: NCM), up 10.6%, Anglogold Ashanti (ASX: AGG), up 8.6%, and Northern Star Resources (ASX: NST), up 7.4%.
Elsewhere, for the second week running, Chorus (ASX: CNU) was one of the week’s best-performing stocks. Despite no price-sensitive news from the company, the telecommunications infrastructure provider gained 15.2%, with its recent half-year report proving to be a catalyst across the last fortnight. Similarly, agriculture company Elders (ASX: ELD) had a strong week, advancing 13.8% amid no news, albeit with both businesses offering somewhat defensive qualities, that may have been a driving force in their respective trading movements.
TPG Telecom (ASX: TPM) climbed 10.9% after the ACCC announced that it would not appeal the decision made by the Federal Court regarding TPG’s proposed merger with Vodafone. This paves the way for the two companies to proceed with a tie-up that will form a significant competitor to Optus and Telstra in the mobile and broadband market.
Another well-known name that outperformed last week was Coles (ASX: COL), with the supermarket giant leaping 10.5%. After a sharp sell-off throughout February, it appears some investors saw value in the stock, including the company’s Chairman and non-executive director James Graham, who on Monday purchased approximately $579,000 of shares in the company.
Which shares dragged on the market?
Travel stocks endured significant selling last week as investors avoided exposure to one of the most-impacted sectors by the Coronavirus. This translated into sharp falls for the travel agencies and airlines, with Corporate Travel Management (ASX: CTD) slumping 22.5%, Flight Centre (ASX: FLT) diving 18.8%, Qantas (ASX: QAN) crashing 15.7%, Webjet (ASX: WEB) crumpling 14.9% and Air New Zealand (ASX: AIZ) lower by 9.1%.
With the most profound impact on the ASX, however, was a huge slide in the share prices of the banks. With the RBA deciding to cut interest rates during the week, and analysts tipping another cut on the horizon, the banks are expected to see their net interest margins fall. As a result, NAB (ASX: NAB) lost 12.4%, ANZ (ASX: ANZ) slid 10.8%, Westpac (ASX: WBC) fell 9.7% and Commonwealth Bank (ASX: CBA) shed 9.6% of its market cap. The regional banks also took a hit, with Bank of Queensland (ASX: BOQ) down by 7.5%, and Bendigo Bank (ASX: BEN), which traded ex-dividend, plunging 15.3%.
A host of companies in the investment management space also took a big hit, with investor appetite in this sector appearing to wane throughout the trading week. Of those stocks affected, Pendal Group (ASX: PDL) lost 16.1%, Perpetual (ASX: PPT) was down by 14.2%, Netwealth (ASX: NWL) nosedived 13% and Platinum Asset Management (ASX: PTM) dropped 12.8%.
Rounding out the list of stocks that faced a tough time last week were Credit Corp (ASX: CCP) and Computershare (ASX: CPU), which declined 16.3% and 14.8% respectively on no particular news.
This week’s trading outlook
The Australian stock market is posed for yet another soft start to the week, with ASX futures pointing to steep losses at the open, despite US markets rallying off their lows in Friday’s offshore trading session.
If the price of gold continues to rise, gold stocks could see further momentum in the weak ahead, while the headwinds and selling pressure faced by energy stocks and travel-related shares could remain. Investors seeking exposure to the market downfall may be tempted to look at BBOZ, BBUS or BEAR, which are a series of ETFs that effectively ‘short’ the market and have performed well over the last fortnight.
Australian business and consumer confidence will be on the agenda in the week ahead, as will US inflation data. However, Chinese data released over the weekend could have the largest influence on the market, with the nation’s trade balance coming in well below forecast at a sizeable deficit, albeit with imports surprising to the upside.
The next round of dividends available to shareholders will be headlined by the likes of Caltex (ASX: CTX), REA Group (ASX: REA) and CSL (ASX: CSL), each of which will trade ex-dividend in the week ahead.
Amid the market-wide slump several companies recorded an all-time low, including Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (ASX: URW), Link Administration (ASX: LNK), as well as household names Virgin Australia (ASX: VAH) and Myer (ASX: MYR).
Contrarian investors willing to bet on a market turnaround may be eyeing off some of the ASX’s bellwether stocks trading at their 52-week lows, including not only several of the banks, but other stocks such as Woodside Petroleum (ASX: WPL), Scentre Group (ASX: SCG), Tabcorp Holdings (ASX: TAH), Crown Resorts (ASX: CWN) and Alumina (ASX: AWC).
After their encouraging performance last week, Chorus and Elders are both trading at a 52-week high, while Spark New Zealand (ASX: SPK) also enters the trading week in a similar position.
We’ll be back next week with another Weekly ASX Trading Wrap Up – until then, have a great week!
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