The Australian sharemarket tread water in yet another choppy and directionless trading session, with tech stocks slumping, but gold shares and supermarkets gaining ground.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed just 3.9 points higher at 7245.1, while the All Ordinaries Index landed in the red, slipping 14.6 points or 0.19 per cent to 7529.
OMG chief executive Ivan Tchourilov said the local bourse was volatile “straight from opening”.
“Inflation is back on the market’s mind: we saw significant drops in small cap companies and technology – namely, those with slimmer cash flows and higher debt-to-earnings ratios,” he said.
“On the flip side, gold miners and consumer staples were bought up in defence against inflationary fears, leading the few sectors who had a positive day higher.
“The market is toing and froing, trying to land on how significant Omicron will be in the global economic recovery from Covid.
“If international markets are anything to go by, intraday price swings will be persistent until a clear market direction is found, hopefully some time before Christmas.”
CommSec analyst Tom Piotrowski said the tech sector was hard hit by the Nasdaq index in the US, falling almost 2 per cent on Friday night.
Afterpay fell 4.32 per cent to $94, moving in lock-step with its American acquirer Block, which recently changed its name from Square.
That flowed on to smaller buy-now-pay-later stocks, with Sezzle plunging 16.14 per cent to $3.17, Zip erasing 10.15 per cent to $4.34, Splitit dropping 5.88 per cent to 24 cents and Laybuy declining 2.38 per cent to 20.5 cents.
EML Payments, which Fintel listed as the third most shorted ASX stock, shed 3.58 per cent to $3.23, while Tyro Payments backtracked 2.9 per cent to $2.68.
Among the gold miners, Silver Lake jumped 4.55 per cent to $1.61, Regis improved 2.98 per cent to $1.73, Northern Star lifted 3.18 per cent to $9.09, Gold Road advanced 3.36 per cent to $1.38, Evolution added 3.7 per cent to $3.91 and Perseus firmed 2.03 per cent to $1.50.
Metcash was the best performing stock in the top 200, surging 7.34 per cent to $4.24 after bumping up its dividend and reporting a rise in half-year net profit.
Divisional sales growth was 18.8 per cent for IGA supermarkets, 27 per cent for liquor, 17.7 per cent for Independent Hardware Group and a whopping 51 per cent for Total Tools.
“The preference for local neighbourhood shopping and shift from cities to regional areas helped our independent retail networks all deliver ‘like for like’ sales growth,” chief executive Jeff Adams said.
Coles put on 2.65 per cent to $17.81 and Woolworths gained 2.58 per cent to $40.61.
In the mining sector, Rio Tinto retreated 1.78 per cent to $93.82, BHP slid 1.59 per cent to $39.59 and South32 lost 1.33 per cent to $3.70, but Fortescue firmed five cents to $17.15.
Building products company Boral gained 1.62 per cent to $6.27 after announcing it had inked a deal to sell its North American fly ash business for $US755m ($A1.07bn).
“The market was pleased with that price tag,” Mr Piotrowski said.
Vehicle parts company Bapcor lost 5.6 per cent to $6.41 after revealing its longstanding boss Darryl Abotomey was leaving early due to “a marked deterioration in the relationship between the board and the chief executive” that had made his position “untenable”.
It was announced just a fortnight ago he would depart at the end of February.
“Things have gone sour … so he’s going to be leaving immediately,” Mr Piotrowski said.
“It’s never great when you don’t have a seamless handover.”
Mr Tchourilov said Bapcor shareholders who stuck around after the initial retirement announcement were now running for the exit.
“For investors looking to buy, the question is how expensive the transition of leadership will be, and the risk of the new leader’s performance,” he said.
“From a macro perspective, Bapcor is well paced to take advantage of post-lockdown existence, when more and more people are getting behind the wheel of their vehicle once again.”
Sigma Healthcare retreated 7.62 per cent to 48.5 cents after downgrading its full-year earnings guidance.
“That all turns around higher costs,” Mr Piotrowski said.
“They’re applying some new technology that’s going to give them better operating efficiencies and that sort of thing.”
ANZ inched one cent higher to $27.04, Commonwealth Bank rose 0.65 per cent to $97.24, National Australia Bank improved 0.29 per cent to $28.04 and Westpac firmed two cents to $20.72.
In economic news, ANZ-tracked job advertisements increased by 7.4 per cent last month, to a 13-year high and 44.2 per cent above pre-pandemic levels.
The Aussie dollar was fetching 70.18 US cents, 53.02 British pence and 62.17 Euro cents in afternoon trade.