Aust close slightly lower, with more weakness from CSL

The Australian share market has closed down slightly, with losses from CSL, Macquarie, Seek, James Hardie and Breville on another big day for earnings season.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Tuesday finished down 11.3 points, or 0.15 per cent, to 7,603.6, while the broader All Ordinaries dropped 12.5 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 7,847.8.

With mainland China and Hong Kong shut down for the Lunar New Year holiday and little news out of the US before the latest monthly inflation readout overnight, trading was dominated mostly by company-specific news.

CSL fell for a second day, dropping 2.8 per cent to $282.25 after the blood products posted a half-year net profit of $1.9 billion, up 20 per cent from a year ago. 

Saxo Asia Pacific senior sales trader Junvum Kim called it a strong result for CSL, although guidance on its Vifor iron deficiency division could be seen as a negative.

CSL's losses pulled the ASX200 down by 11.5 points, meaning the index would have closed marginally higher without them.  

In the materials sector, James Hardie fell 8.5 per cent to a five-week low of $56.10 after the building cladding company reported third-quarter earnings of $234 million, slightly above consensus estimates but apparently disappointing traders.

Elsewhere in the sector, Fortescue dipped 0.7 per cent to $28.28 while BHP advanced 0.5 per cent to $46.32 and Rio Tinto was basically flat at $129.

The big four banks finished higher, with ANZ rising 0.6 per cent to $28.21, NAB adding 0.9 per cent to $32.93 and CBA and Westpac both finishing 0.2 per cent higher, at $116 and $24.55, respectively.

But Macquarie fell 1.0 per cent to a three-week low of $186.25 after the investment bank said its 2023/24 profit to date was "down substantially" on the prior year, in part due to lower asset realisations in green investments.

Also, Challenger added 8.4 per cent to a six-month high of $7.13 after the fund manager announced its full-year results would be at the top half of guidance after its profit rose 16 per cent to $290 million.

In the consumer discretionary sector, Breville fell 8.5 per cent to a two-month low of $25 after the small appliance maker posted a 6.7 per cent rise in half-year net profit, while Temple & Webster climbed 9.9 per cent to a two-year high of $11.01 after the furniture e-retailer announced record half-year sales.

JB Hi-Fi shares rose 5.6 per cent to a record high of $63.96 after broker upgrades following its better-than-expected earnings report on Monday.

In communications, Seek fell 4.6 per cent to a two-month low of $25.62 after the help-wanted platform announced a first-half profit from continuing operations of $35.2 million, down 74 per cent from a year ago.

In Australia in New Zealand, job ad volumes "have continued to slow since reaching record levels in March 2022", Seek said. 

Elsewhere in the sector, Seven West Media dropped 10.9 per cent to a one-week low of 24.5c after Kerry Stokes' company reported a profit slump for the first half of 2023/24 and flagged further cost-cutting measures might be needed.

In energy, Perth Basin gas producer Strike Energy plunged 25 per cent to 31.5c after a Perth appraisal well failed to perform to expectations. 

The Australian dollar was buying 65.21 US cents, from 65.20 US cents at Monday's ASX close.

Cryptocurrencies were surging, with Bitcoin rising above $US50,000 for the first time in two years.

One BTC was trading for more than $A76,000 on Australian exchanges.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Monday down 11.3 points, or 0.15 per cent, to 7,603.6.

* The broader All Ordinaries dropped 12.5 points, 0.16 per cent, to 7,847.8


One Australian dollar buys:

* 65.21 US cents, from 65.20 US cents at Monday's ASX close

* 97.45 Japanese yen, from 97.28 yen

* 60.53 Euro cents, from 60.42 Euro cents

* 51.65 British pence, from 51.63 pence

* 106.72 NZ cents, from 106.37 NZ cents.

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