The major banks all closed higher on Monday, however, after recording sharp falls at the end of last week: Westpac rose 2.8 per cent to $15.77, Commonwealth Bank added 1.8 per cent to $59.88, National Australian Bank gained 2 per cent to $16.47, and ANZ firmed 2.5 per cent to close at $16.15.
IAG similarly delivered bad news for income investors in a trading update. The insurer warned of “limited scope to pay a final dividend” this year after flagging a $280 million pre-tax loss over the financial year to the end of April.
Combined with the negative lead from overseas sharemarkets at the end of last week and a further escalation in geopolitical tensions between the US and China at the weekend, the local market fell sharply at the open.
But the falls were reversed through the remainder of the session. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that new housing approvals fell 4 per cent March, when the market had been expecting a 15 per cent decline.
Although many saw the result as positive, it was also considered to be the “the quiet before the storm”, according to analysis from Westpac.
The macroeconomic challenges facing the market were further highlighted with job advertisements data.
Ads for new positions fell 53.1 per cent in April compared with the previous month and plunged 62.2 per cent from the year-earlier month on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to ANZ.
The bank’s economists said the month-on-month fall was almost five times higher the previous record monthly decline that was set during the global financial crisis.
“Although we think the JobKeeper payment will flatten the peak in the
unemployment rate to 9.5 per cent in quarter two, there will still be substantial loss of employment, hours worked and household income over the coming months,” ANZ’s Catherine Birch and Shaurya Mishra said.
Afterpay carries tech sector higher
But while the uncertain economic and earnings outlook further weighs on risk assets, the growth prospects among listed technology companies supported gains on the sharemarket on Monday.
Afterpay shares surged after the company said it had been in conversation with Chinese technology giant Tencent—which was revealed to have become a substantial shareholder—about international expansion plans.
“The discussions we have had [with Tencent] relate to global expansion. Being a retail-led company, they see the value proposition we are delivering to retailers and how that can be expanded in more countries,” Afterpay co-founder Anthony Eisen told The Australian Financial Review.
The company’s shares climbed 23.8 per cent over the day to close at $36.10. Other financial technology companies also performed well over the session, with Zip Co adding 5.9 per cent to close at $2.35 and Tyro closing 2.2 per cent higher at $2.77.
The lift in Tyro’s share price came after the company released its latest weekly transaction value update. The company reported its first monthly fall in the value of payments through its network in April, down from growth of 30 per cent at the start of the year.
Over the last month the S&P/ASX 200 Information Technology index has rallied 20.6 per cent, which compares with a 1.2 per gain cent for the broader ASX 200.
“We believe the tech sector is a driving force in the secular themes that will redefine how we work, shop and socialise over a three- to five-year time horizon,” said Janus Henderson technology portfolio manager Denny Fish.
“Many of the companies exemplifying the themes have been called into action – perhaps earlier than anticipated – to help businesses and societies navigate the COVID-19 crisis.”
The gold sector also performed well on Monday, boosted by the outlook for demand for the precious metal. Saracen Mineral Holdings gained 7.1 per cent to close at $4.25, Evolution Mining advanced 7 per cent to $5.05, and Regis Resources climbed 6.6 per cent to end the day at $4.53.