ASX and oil prices sink as ship refloats
Shares closed a little lower on the Australian market as a coronavirus lockdown unfolded for Brisbane, and the refloating of a ship blocking the Suez Canal caused oil prices to fall.
The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed down 24.7 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 6799.5 points on Monday.
The All Ordinaries closed lower by 26.7 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 7036.4.
The indices were little changed at 1200 AEDT, but the refloating of the Ever Given a couple of hours later gave investors hope there would be no mass disruption to oil supply.
The 400m ship had blocked bulk carriers and oil tankers in the canal since it ran aground last week.
Crude oil prices fell after the ship was refloated. Brent crude was down by $US1 per barrel to $US63.67.
The ASX energy sector had been higher by about one per cent prior to the refloating, then closed lower by 0.3 per cent.
Beach, Origin, Oil Search and Woodside all closed lower by less than one per cent.
The sector which had the biggest loss was information technology, down 2.77 per cent.
There were slumps of more than one per cent in consumer discretionaries and telecommunications.
The materials sector, which includes miners, was strongest and rose 1.3 per cent.
Dampening investors' enthusiasm before trade opened was the Queensland government's decision to impose a three-day lockdown on Brisbane.
There were four new community infections on Monday, bringing the total to seven since last week.
Some states and territories declared quarantine conditions for people arriving from Brisbane or Queensland.
Webjet fell 2.79 per cent to $5.57 and Qantas dipped 0.78 per cent to $5.07.
The news dulled a good lead from Wall Street, which rallied on Friday due to signs of economic recovery and improving vaccination rates.
On the ASX, REA Group proposed to buy brokers Mortgage Choice for $1.95 per share, or $244 million.
The Mortgage Choice board recommended shareholders vote in favour.
Mortgage Choice has a loan book of $54 billion and reported a net profit after tax of $4.1 million for the six months to December.
REA shares were down 1.86 per cent to $137.45.
Mortgage Choice shares were up 62.55 per cent to $1.91.
AMP has so far been unable to sell its private markets business to US-based Ares Management Corporation, after a preliminary agreement lapsed.
The wealth manager on Monday said a 30-day heads of agreement with Ares to sell AMP Capital's markets business had concluded.
The two businesses continue working on a sale.
Shares were down 3.35 per cent to $1.30.
Gambling group Tabcorp said it would review ownership options after recent offers for its wagering and media business were too low.
The business said options included selling the wagering and media business, as well as a demerger.
Suitors have offered about $3 billion.
Shares were down 2.7 per cent to $4.69.
Big miners were doing well. BHP rose 1.75 per cent to $45.86, Fortescue gained 2.13 per cent to $20.58 and Rio Tinto rose 1.75 per cent to $112.26.
In banking, Westpac was unchanged while ANZ, the Commonwealth and NAB all lost less than one per cent.
On Tuesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will publish its weekly payrolls report, a more frequent guide to the state of the jobs market during the pandemic.
The Australian dollar was buying 76.26 US cents at 1719 AEDT, higher from 76.14 US cents at Friday's close.
ON THE ASX
* The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed down 24.7 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 6799.5 on Monday.
* The All Ordinaries closed lower by 26.7 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 7036.4.
* At 1719 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was higher by seven points, or 0.1 per cent, and trading at 6767 points.
One Australian dollar buys:
* 76.26 US cents, from 76.14 cents on Friday
* 83.51 Japanese yen, from 83.29 yen
* 64.73 Euro cents, from 64.70 cents
* 55.41 British pence, from 55.40 pence
* 109.28 NZ cents, from 109.18 cents.
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