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Australian sharemarket a sea of red, with resources, banks and travel stocks among the losers

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The ASX fell as the worsening Delta outbreak weighed on travel stocks, while the resources and banking sectors were the biggest losers. The Australian sharemarket was dragged lower by resources stocks and the big banks, while the travel sector was again hit hard by the worsening Delta outbreak in NSW and Victoria.

The S&P/ASX200 closed 0.85 percent lower at 7286 while the All Ordinaries Index fell 0.93 percent to 7559.7. CommSec analyst James Tao said it wasn’t a great start to the week, not helped by a weak lead from Wall Street and ongoing Covid-19 outbreaks in Australia’s two most populous states. The loss follows the ASX gaining 1 percent last week – its best week in seven weeks.

Among the miners, Rio Tinto shed 2.12 percent to $127.83, BHP slid 2.64 percent to $50.50, and Fortescue dropped 1.4 percent to $25.42. Battery technology company Novonix plunged 10 percent to $2.61. OceanaGold lost 4.2 percent to $2.51 after releasing its preliminary June quarter operational results, reporting record production at its Haile mine in the US. Still, its Macraes project in New Zealand was disappointed, with RBC Capital Markets saying the mine’s recent performance put its full-year output guidance at risk.

Evolution Mining plunged 8.74 percent to $4.28 after broker downgrades, with Morgan Stanley reducing its price target to $4 following the gold producer’s quarterly update last week. “It did miss its output guidance, so that certainly has hurt the company’s outlook at the moment,” Mr. Tao said.

Australian

Carnarvon Petroleum slumped 9.09 percent to 25 cents in the energy sector, Santos declined 2.7 percent to $6.83, Woodside gave up 1.89 percent to $22.33, Oil Search dropped 5.17 percent to $3.67. Oil Search boss Keiran Wulff quit after less than 18 months at the helm of the PNG-focused oil and gas producer, with the board citing his long-term medical condition and saying he had behaved in an “unacceptable” manner.

CommSec senior economist Ryan Felsman said mid-afternoon that global oil prices had fallen by more than 1.1 percent in Asian trade after OPEC and its allies agreed on Sunday to increase crude production by 400,000 barrels a day from August. “It is going to be a volatile week for oil-exposed ASX-listed companies as investors, analysts and traders digest the OPEC announcement,” Mr. Felsman said.

“Also, Iran is expected to recommence crude exports shortly after lifting sanctions, potentially complicating the supply outlook. “Of course, concerns about the resurgence in global coronavirus cases persist, with restrictions being reintroduced in Asia. “That said, analysts still expect a tightening in the oil market over the coming months as vaccination rates lift, increasing driver mobility.”

Banks were also a significant drag, with ANZ slipping 1.02 percent to $27.15, Commonwealth Bank easing 0.52 percent to $97.68, National Australia Bank backtracking 1.19 percent to $25.65 and Westpac retreating 0.88 percent to $24.69.

OMG chief executive Ivan Tchourilov said travel stocks were hit hard after Victorian Premier Dan Andrews announced the state’s lockdown would be extended. “Travel stocks can’t catch a break and are continuously in the ‘too hard basket’ as these lockdowns cripple the travel industry they are obviously highly leveraged to,” Mr. Tchourilov said.

Webjet gave up 3.26 percent to $4.75, Flight Centre weakened 2.42 percent to $14.50, and Qantas softened 1.48 percent to $4.65. Furniture retailer Nick Scali responded to press speculation it was in talks with Greenlit Brands, which owns Freedom, Fantastic Furniture, and Snooze, to potentially buy Plush sofas, saying it actively considered acquisitive growth opportunities from time to time. There was no certainty the discussions would result in a binding transaction.

But if they did, Nick Scali would expect to be able to pay for the deal with a combination of cash on hand and debt. Shares in the company jumped 4.17 percent to $11.50. Other strong performers included Domino’s Pizza, up 2.16 percent at $120.13, sleep disorder device company ResMed, up 2.43 percent at $34.52, and biotech giant CSL, up 1.8 percent at $282.74.

Telstra eased 0.27 percent to $3.76 after confirming it was in talks to potentially acquire Digicel Pacific in the South Pacific region, with financial and strategic risk management support offered by the Australian government. Telstra said Digicel was a commercially attractive asset and critical to telecommunications in the area.

Gina Rinehart-backed Vulcan Energy Resources slipped 2.79 percent to $9.07 after inking its first binding sales deal for lithium hydroxide from its project in Germany with LG Energy Solution – the world’s biggest producer of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

“The stock has experienced extraordinary gains over the past two years, going from 20 cents to $9, and recently hit a valuation of $1b,” Mr. Tchourilov said. “It’s the most-bought and most-traded stock across the Openmarkets client base today.” The Aussie dollar fetched 73.83 US cents, 53.66 British pence, and 62.53 Euro cents in afternoon trade.

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