Headline indices of the Australian stock market moved lower on Monday, 15 April 2019, ignoring a positive lead from US markets to end last week, as investors elected to book profit after sharp gains the previous session and ahead of a shortened trading week. ASX sectors were mixed, with shares in mining and healthcare issues being notable losers whereas financials and energy issues were notable gainers. Around late afternoon trade, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 7.92 points, or 0.13%, at 6,243.40 points, while the broader All Ordinaries shed 7.80 points, or 0.12%, at 6,339.20.
Market participants concerns about the world's second largest economy soothed after stronger-than-expected China data on Friday improved investor confidence. The broad-based improvement in the Chinese economy from manufacturing to producer price inflation in March has boosted the market sentiment suggesting that the economy is slowly moving towards stabilization. The pick-up in China's manufacturing PMI since the last three months have provided some relief to the investors with the March PMI figure at 50.5. The Service activity in China also quickened in March at 54.8 confirming the stability in the Chinese economy. The service sector contributes almost half to the Chinese economy. Last week's encouraging New Yuan loans and money supply surprised the market positively posting increment of 1.69 trillion Yuan in March. Total Chinese Yuan loan in the first quarter of 2019 hit a record of 5.81 trillion Yuan. Also, total social financing, a broad measure of credit in the economy, increased by four times in March at 2.86 trillion Yuan since last month. This support implies a continuation of the recovery in the economy. Investors will look for further signs of recovery in the Chinese economy in the series of economic data due to be released this week.
Encouraging developments in the U.
S.-China trade negotiations also added to the positive sentiment. Last week, U. S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Washington and Beijing are making progress on a trade deal, which includes agreeing on an enforcement mechanism. Still, Mnuchin declined to say if the U. S. will use tariffs as an enforcement tool.
On the geopolitical front, the financial markets face several concerns such as the ongoing US and China trade talks and the extended Brexit deadline which runs out on April 12 or may be extended until June. In the absence of a US-China trade deal and if the UK ends up crashing out of the EU without a plan to deal with trade relations, there could be a widespread impact on the markets. Four major economic regions would be in line to take a hard economic blow. Europe is already suffering the effects of member state slowdowns, particularly in Italy. Additional blows from a no-deal Brexit could put the region's economy on the ropes. The UK faces the prospect of simply losing access to its European markets, at least temporarily. Investor confidence and smooth market operations would face further knocks. Both the US and China are experiencing some form of supply-chain disturbances with the ongoing trade disputes.
Shares of materials were mixed despite iron ore futures in China ended higher on Friday as spot prices hovered near five-year highs amid increased demand from Chinese steelmakers and declining supplies from producers overseas. Mining giant BHP was flat at A$39.565 while Rio Tinto lost 0.2%.
Financials were higher, with all four of the big banks in the green. ANZ remained the best performer of the big four, adding 0.9%, followed by Commonwealth Bank, up 0.6%. Westpac shares gained 0.5% and NAB was up 0.4%
Energy stocks were also higher thanks to higher oil prices, with Santos, Oil Search and Origin Energy all trading between 0.3% and 1% higher. Caltex lost 0.9% after it announced the completion of a A$260 million off-market buy-back, while Woodside Petroleum was flat at A$35.755.
Financial services provider, IOOF Holdings (IFL) was off by 2.2% after releasing an announcement on late Friday night that it was facing a class action in the Supreme Court of NSW based upon evidence provided at the Royal Commission.
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