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ASX softens as investors dump tech, health, BNPL stocks

A sharp rotation out of technology and health sector companies threw cold water on a red-hot ASX rally as investors showed a begrudging acceptance that rate hikes are just around the corner.

The Australian sharemarket eased back on Wednesday after a barnstorming start to the new year, with heavy losses for growth names such as Afterpay, Zip, CSL, Resmed and Xero offsetting a strong run for the banks and miners.

The benchmark ASX 200 slipped 0.3 per cent, or 24 points, from Tuesday’s near five-month high to close at 7565.8.

The broader All Ordinaries dipped 27.2 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 7899.6, while the Aussie dollar improved against the greenback to 72.29 US cents.

FINANCIAL REFORMS
Camera IconASX investors started the day with a brief foray above 7600 – just the third session in history it has managed to do so – before the tech nosedive accelerated into the late morning. Damian Shaw / NCA NewsWire Credit: News Corp Australia

The pullback mirrored overnight movements in the US, where investors were waiting for minutes from the latest US Fed meeting and confirmation that a rate rise – and a wider shift towards traditional policy settings – will be here in matter of months.

The Federal Reserve has already begun tapering its bond-buying program and will likely begin to hike rates in 2022.

Long-term US bond yields spiked ahead of the minutes, kickstarting a rotation away from mega-cap tech firms.

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Tesla, Microsoft and Alphabet were all bloodied, while companies on the Dow Jones Industrial Average improved.

“Seemingly, the sharp rise in US yields this week has sparked a move from growth to value, or as I put it, from the Nasdaq to the Dow Jones,” OANDA Asia-Pacific senior analyst Jeffrey Halley said.

“Whether it lasts is another thing altogether, with such rotations running out of steam over the past 18 months without really ever gathering momentum.”

MARKET WRAP
Camera IconRetail and industrial behemoth Wesfarmers slipped 0.4 per cent to $59.80 and Woolworths fell 1.6 per cent to $37.86. Coles dropped 1.1 per cent to $17.71 to cap a weak day for consumer staples. James Gourley / NCA NewsWire Credit: News Corp Australia

Locally, investors started the day with a brief foray above 7600 – just the third session in history it has managed to do so – before the tech nosedive accelerated into the late morning.

Afterpay took a beating, dropping 4 per cent to close at $80.51 cents – back to where it was in September 2020.

Buy now, pay later rival Zip Co fell 5.3 per cent to $4.10, while Sezzle, Humm and Tyro Payments were also lower.

Accounting software firm Xero dropped 3.8 per cent to $140.67, Wisetech Global was 2.9 per cent down at $58.12, Appen dropped 4.9 per cent to $10.59 and Altium ended 2.1 per cent lower at $43.70.

Healthcare stocks fared little better, with blood giant CSL losing 1.8 per cent to $290.60. Resmed lost 3.3 per cent to $34.98 and medical imaging firm Pro Medicus dropped 9.7 per cent to $56.95

Healius was a rare health sector winner, climbing 0.4 per cent to $5.19, as the demand for coronavirus testing services remains strong.

MARKET WRAP
Camera IconOpenmarkets Group chief executive Ivan Tchourilov noted oil prices have been bolstered by news OPEC has agreed to increase production by 400,000 barrels per day in February. Jeremy Piper / NCA NewsWire Credit: News Corp Australia

Retail and industrial behemoth Wesfarmers slipped 0.4 per cent to $59.80 and Woolworths fell 1.6 per cent to $37.86. Coles dropped 1.1 per cent to $17.71 to cap a weak day for consumer staples.

Telstra sold off 0.7 per cent to $4.19, but the powerful financials were again strong – Macquarie hitting a new record high when it rose 2.1 per cent to $215.73.

Commonwealth bank rose 0.7 per cent to $103.20, Westpac gained 0.8 per cent to $21.84, NAB added 0.7 per cent to $29.61 and ANZ rose 0.2 per cent to $28.06.

The iron ore miners were strong, with BHP up 0.6 per cent to $42.63, Rio Tinto gaining 0.8 per cent to $100.48 and Fortescue metals 0.6 per cent higher at $19.96.

Openmarkets Group chief executive Ivan Tchourilov noted oil prices have been bolstered by news OPEC has agreed to increase production by 400,000 barrels per day in February.

“OPEC suggested that it’s preparing to match a future pick-up in demand throughout the year – further evidence that Omicron won’t have a severe impact on oil, which is now above US$80 for the first time since November,” he said.

As such, Woodside Petroleum jumped 0.4 per cent to $22.77, Santos was 2.6 per cent higher at $6.78 and Origin Energy rose 1.5 per cent to $5.44.

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