Big banks rise, Lake Resources rides on lithium deal: ASX up 0.2% midday

The Australian equity market opened higher before paring its lunchtime gains after materials and energy erased its strong start. The financial sector leads, followed by consumer staples and real estate, while technology is the worst performer.

Big banks lift financial sector, led by Commonwealth (ASX:ABC), up 1.3% to $106.77. Despite Macquarie (ASX: MQG) down 0.7% at $202.29, ANZ Banking (ASX: ANZ) rose 1.2 percent to $27.82, National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) added 1.1% to $32.82 and Westpac (ASX: WBC) is trading up 0.8% at $24.29 amid indicative offers for their flagship platform BT Panorama according to FRG.

Amid rising underlying commodity prices, resource stocks are mixed this morning.

Gold stocks rise, led by Northern Star (ASX:NST) up 3.1% to $10.59. Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) rose 1.8% to $28.08 and Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) is trading up 1.3% at $4.38.

On energy stocks, Beach Energy (ASX: BPT) is up 0.8% to $1.56 and Santos (ASX:STO) is up 0.6% at $8.05, while Woodside Petroleum (ASX: WPL) is down 1% at $32.07.

Fortescue Metals (ASX: FMG) weighs on major miners, down 2.4% to $21.30. Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) fell 0.7% to $118.19 and BHP (ASX: BHP) is down 0.1% at $51.90.

Meanwhile, lithium developer Lake Resources (ASX:LKE) signed a non-binding agreement with Ford Motor Company for the delivery of approximately 25,000 tons of lithium per year from its Kachi project in Argentina. The company says it intends to use direct mining technology for the production of sustainable high-purity lithium. The shares are trading up 11.3% at $2.07.

In broker moves, Morningstar cut mineral resources (ASX:MIN) note to a sale from a hold. The shares are trading down 0.7% at $60.87.

Elsewhere, Telstra (ASX:TLS) is watched today after Foxtel’s public float is expected to be delayed until later this year due to a range of domestic and international factors which have altered the media landscape in recent months according to The Australian. The shares are trading down 0.1% at $4.00.

At midday, the S&P/ASX 200 is 0.2% or 12.7 points higher at 7490.7.

SPI futures are pointing up 4 points.

Local economic news

The National Skills Commission has released its preliminary job vacancies data for March. Job postings rose 3.7% or 10,200 postings in March to 282,400. The surge in growth in recruiting activity saw job postings rise to their highest level since July 2008, before the impact of the 2007/8 global financial crisis.

The report says recruiting activity increased in all states and territories in March. The strongest growth was in the Northern Territory, which grew by 9.1%, followed by Queensland up 5.6%, ACT up 5.2% and Victoria up 5.2%. 4.4%.

Company News

Sunset Group (ASX: SNZ) reported its highest second quarter for the three months ending March 31. The retirement village operator recorded 279 sales, compared to 275 sales in the prior year period. He said that despite the challenges posed by the Omicron outbreak around New Zealand, sales remained strong, with 55% of sales coming from outside the Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury regions. The shares are fixed at $10.58.

Ventia (ASX:VNT) won the asset management services contract from NSW government agency, Transport for NSW, to provide works through the Sydney Harbor Tunnel and Western Harbor Tunnel. The contract has an initial term of 15 years with two 10-year extension options and is expected to generate approximately $450 million in revenue for Ventia. The shares are trading up 1.9% at $2.66.

BlueScope (ASX:BSL) is set to acquire the U.S. Coil Coatings business of Cornerstone Building Brands for $672 million (US$500 million). The steelmaker said Coil Coatings is the second-largest metal painter in the United States, with total capacity of about 900,000 tons per year, primarily serving commercial and industrial construction applications at seven facilities. The shares are trading up 0.9% at $20.67.

PointsBet’s (ASX: PBH) the PointsBet Canada subsidiary has signed an agreement with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment that sees PointsBet become an official sports betting partner of Maple’s professional teams. Teams include the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Marlies, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Argonauts and Toronto FC. The shares are trading down 2.2% at $3.18 and are the second worst stock.

Best and Worst Performers

The best performing sector was Financials, up 0.7%. The worst performing sector was information technology, down 0.8%.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is GrainCorp (ASX: CNG), trading up 6.4% at $9.78. It is followed by the actions of Regis Resources (ASX:RRL) and I will (ASX:IGO).

The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is The A2 Milk Company (ASX: A2M), trading down 3.4% at $4.87. It is followed by shares in PointsBet Holdings (ASX: PBH) and Paladin Energy (ASX: PDN).

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1,944.49 per ounce.
Iron ore is 0.3% lower at US$154.65 a tonne.
Iron ore futures point to a 3.9% drop.
One Australian dollar buys 74.29 US cents.