Opening Call: The Australian share market is to open higher.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.7% higher, completing a seven-session winning streak for the first time since December 2020. Tech, health and consumer stocks led the way as the benchmark index took its gains to 3.2% across seven sessions. Three of the top four performing ASX 200 components were tech stocks. Fisher & Paykel led healthcare gains, rising 4.2%.
U.S. stocks fell as concerns about rising commodity prices and uncertain progress in cease-fire talks between Russia and Ukraine weighed on investors. The S&P 500 fell 0.6% while the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index lost 1.2%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.2%. “It just seems like markets are still trying to digest the rally they’ve seen since Russia invaded Ukraine,” said Jake Manoukian, the U.S. head of investment strategy for J.P. Morgan Private Bank.
Gold futures finished higher, posting their first gain in four sessions in cautious trading as Russia shelled areas near the Ukraine capital of Kyiv despite an earlier pledge to scale back military options. June gold rose 1.1% to settle at $1,939 an ounce on Comex. “The unpredictability of the Putin regime will mean a hefty risk premium remains in the gold markets until talks have reached a positive conclusion, and arguably, for an extended period after that,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management, in a daily note.
Oil prices settled higher as skepticism emerged over progress made a day earlier in negotiations with Russia to bring an end to the war in Ukraine, renewing worries about crude supplies in region. West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery rose 3.4% to settle at $107.82 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. May Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 2.9% to $110.76 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.
“Whether peace talks are real or not, the truth is that we have a global market that is undersupplied regardless,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at The Price Futures Group, in a daily report. Oil prices put the war premium in and they can take it out, but “after the smoke clears … we’re back to being undersupplied.”
Major currencies were mixed against the US dollar in European and US trade. The Euro rose from lows near US$1.1105 to highs near US$1.1168 and was near US$1.1155 at the US close. But the
Aussie dollar fell from highs near US75.35 cents to lows near US75.01 cents and was near US75.10 cents at the US close. And the Japanese yen held between 121.55 yen per US dollar and JPY122.18 and was near JPY121.80 at the US close.
European sharemarkets closed mostly lower on Wednesday. The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell by 0.4%, with travel and leisure stocks down 2.5%. The German Dax index shed 1.5% after German annual headline inflation hit a 48-year-high of 7.3% in March (survey: 6.2%). But the UK FTSE index gained 0.6% with London-listed shares in Rio Tinto (+4%) and BHP (+4.4%) both higher.
Japanese stocks ended lower as a number of stocks traded ex-dividend. Nippon Yusen dropped 8.6% and JFE Holdings lost 6.2% among high-dividend stocks. Nintendo shed 5.7% following a delay of the latest “Legend of Zelda” game release. Some energy and mining stocks declined as expectations of rising commodity prices eased due to signs of progress in Russia-Ukraine peace talks. The Nikkei Stock Average fell 0.8%.
Chinese stocks closed higher, tracking broad gains among other Asian equities. The Shanghai Composite Index was 2.0% higher, the Shenzhen Composite Index rose 2.5%, and the ChiNext Price Index advanced 4.0%. Market sentiment was supported by some progress in the Russia-Ukraine peace talks, as well as good performances from some Chinese companies in the U.S. ADRs market overnight, KGI Securities said.