Mid Session Report (12:15 AEST)
Local stocks benefitted from some US direction overnight with Wall St overnight returning from a long weekend. The broader US market continued to grind higher following better economic readings. This translated to a positive start for local stocks with the ASX 200 trading higher by around 20 points in early trade. As lunch time drew closer the market gave up some its gains, although it remained in the range of positive territory.
Most sectors were supported by buyers over the morning although Consumer Staple were the weak link , led into the red by Woolies (WOW) and Wesfarmers (WES). In the case of the former the grocer announced an interest in selling its hotel and liquor businesses. WOW said it is looking at options to divest part of its property portfolio, including its holdings in the ALH Group of hotels and its liquor store chain which could include single property sales, portfolio property sales or the creation of separate vehicles which would own the said assets. The group highlighted that any divestment would involve retaining operational control of the properties through a leasehold interest in the relevant premises. WOW share were lower by 0.75% a short time ago.
In the same sector Wesfarmers (WES) held a strategy day. One of the features of the event was the conversation around potential acquisitions offshore, with the CEO highlighting the resources the group has in terms of people, systems and processes that are capable of delivering value to shareholders from other jurisdictions. Investors didn't warm to the idea with the shares shedding 0.25%.
In economic news the Westpac and Melbourne Institute said that for the April month, the overall level of its Leading Index fell from 98.50 in March to 98.00. Two components posted monthly improvements: the S&P/ASX 200 which was up 1.3% and the Unemployment Expectations index which posted an improved, outlook for unemployment. All other components deteriorated in the month with the Expectations Index down sharply (-9.8%), a 4.3% drop in dwelling approvals, a 3.9% fall in commodity prices, a 2.5% fall in aggregate monthly hours worked, a small 0.6% decline in US industrial production. The forward looking measure of activity will be a factor that will play into the RBA leaving rates on hold at the next policy setting meeting next week.
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