Heavy losses for CSL help drag ASX into the red

A failed drug trial by Australia's third-largest public company has helped drag the ASX into the red at the start of the week.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Monday down 29.9 points, or 0.39 per cent, to 7,614.9, while the broader All Ordinaries dropped 24.4 points, or 0.31 per cent, to 7,860.3.

CSL suffered its worst loss in four months, falling 4.8 per cent to $290.24 and causing a 21.3-point drop in the ASX200, making it responsible for more than 70 per cent of index's losses.

The blood products giant announced Monday that a plasma-derived treatment it had spent two decades and almost $1 billion developing did not appear to prevent secondary heart attacks, as CSL had hoped.

"Substantial work remains to fully analyse and understand the complete data and then to determine any development path ahead for this asset," CSL research and development head Dr Bill Mezzanottee said in announcing the failure of the 18,200-patient, five-year clinical trial.

CSL's losses meant the ASX's health care sector closed 3.2 per cent lower, also its worst day in four months.

The ASX's energy, mining, consumer staples and property sectors were also down, although much more modestly.

JB Hi-Fi was the ASX200's best performer, jumping 7.1 per cent to a record closing high of $60.58 after the electronics and home appliance retailer posted a more modest drop in first-half sales and profit than analysts were expecting.

"We are pleased with our performance as we cycled the elevated customer demand in the prior year," group chief executive Terry Smart said. 

Other retailers rose on the news, with Harvey Norman, jewellery chain Lovisa, Rebel Sports owner Super Retail Group and Peter Alexander owner Premier Investments all advancing by between 1.9 and 4.8 per cent.

The big four banks were mostly higher, with ANZ adding 1.3 per cent to $28.04, NAB up 0.9 per cent to $32.65 and Westpac advancing 0.5 per cent to $24.50. 

CBA was the outlier, dipping 0.4 per cent to $$115.73.

In the heavyweight mining sector, Fortescue gained 0.8 per cent to $28.49, Rio Tinto dropped 0.7 per cent to $128.93 and BHP dipped 0.5 per cent to $46.07.

Pro Medicus rose 4.3 per cent to a record high of $111.35 before the health imaging company's earnings announcement on Thursday. 

Tech stocks were on the whole the best performers on Monday, with the sector lifting 1.0 per cent as Audinate and Appen posted double-digit gains.

Audinate soared 20.6 per cent to a record high of $19.33 after announcing record half-half earnings of $10.1 million, driven by strong demand for professional audio/visual equipment that use its Dante networking standard.

Appen rose 16.1 per cent to 32.5c after the struggling AI dataset company announced it would close two offices in North America and trim "direct costs" - usually a codeword for layoffs - after losing a major contract from Google that brought in $82 million last year. 

Synlait Milk 15.1 per cent to 67.6c after the Kiwi dairy company said it was urgently deleveraging its balance sheet and expects to announce a half-year loss of up to $21 million.

SkyCity Entertainment fell 2.8 per cent to $1.915 after New Zealand's Department of Internal Affairs announced it would file civil penalty proceedings against the casino group for alleged money-laundering violations.

The Australian dollar was back above 65 US cents, buying 65.20 US cents, from 64.98 US cents at Friday's ASX close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Monday down 29.9 points, or 0.39 per cent, to 7,614.9.

* The broader All Ordinaries dropped 24.4 points, 0.31 per cent, to 7,860.3


One Australian dollar buys:

* 65.20 US cents, from 64.98 US cents at Friday's ASX close

* 97.28 Japanese yen, from 97.08 yen

* 60.42 Euro cents, from 60.32 Euro cents

* 51.63 British pence, from 51.50 pence

* 106.37 NZ cents, from 106.16 NZ cents. 

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