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Market wrap: strong end to the week as energy shines

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By John Beveridge - 
May 2024 energy market wrap ASX



Australia’s share market ended the week on a high after gaining in four of the five trading days with energy stocks the hero, rising on the back of higher oil prices and optimism about a continuing economic recovery in China.

By the end of trade for the week the ASX 200 had risen 0.4% or 27.4 points to 7749 points on Friday, with seven of the eleven sectors in profit.

For the week the market was up 1.6% making it three weeks of consecutive gains as increased hopes for interest rate cuts in the United States this year drove the world’s biggest share market higher.

Energy leads the market higher

The energy sector was the star of the show, up 1.52% for the day as optimism around rising imports and exports from China and higher oil prices brought more confidence to the market.

Some of the local energy standouts included Beach Energy (ASX: BPT) shares which rallied 4% to $1.69, while shares in oil and gas giant Woodside Energy (ASX: WDS) were up 1.9% to $7.86 and Santos (ASX: STO) rose 2.1% to $7.86.

Unusually for an up day, the technology and materials sectors held the index back with shares in family tracking app Life360 (ASX:360) down 2.5% to $15.11 after the company indicated an earnings loss guidance of up to US$13 million (A$20 million) in 2024.

Mining giants also acted as an anchor on the index with shares in BHP (ASX: BHP) down 0.4% to $42.91 and shares in Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) down 0.2% to $130.02.

Banks rise on profit results

It was a happier scene for the big banks as investors continued to digest recent profit reports with shares in Westpac (ASX: WBC) and ANZ (ASX: ANZ) adding more than 1%, followed by National Australia (ASX: NAB) with a 0.9% price rise and banking leader Commonwealth Bank (ASX: CBA) up 0.6%.

There were also some announcement driven share movements with shares in regional lender Suncorp (ASX: SUN) down 0.7% to $16.25 after it revealed that there had been an $85 million increase in past due loans in the March quarter.

Heading in the opposite direction was big insurer QBE (ASX: QBE) with shares up 0.1% to $17.61 after the international group revealed that its gross written premium should grow in the mid-single digits.

Global interest rate cuts might be led by Europe

The global interest rate picture was also helpful to markets with most analysts still believing the local Reserve Bank may lag other economies but is still more likely to move interest rates down than up following Tuesday’s decision to keep the cash rate steady at 4.35%.

Overall, though, the picture in Europe is showing signs of imminent interest rate falls with Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey saying that borrowing costs will fall earlier and further across Europe than in the United States.

Those comments came after Sweden’s Riksbank cut the benchmark rate to 3.75% due to weak economic activity and falling inflation, raising the spectre of Europe leading the US Fed in the race to cut official interest rates.

The UK is also likely to cut rates in August and the European Central Bank is expected to cut rates in June.

Small cap stock action

The Small Ords index rose 1.54% for the week to close at 3048.2 points.

ASX 200 vs Small Ords

Small cap companies making headlines this week were:

Iceni Gold (ASX: ICL)

Iceni Gold has recently uncovered gold-bearing quartz veinlets within a narrow zone where sheared basalt meets sediment at the 14 Mile Well gold project in Western Australia, exposing the structure over a 20m strike length.

The company is preparing to define drill targets using this new data, planning a multi-hole diamond drill program to explore the Christmas Gift shear’s down dip position, aiming to commence in the June quarter.

Wade Johnson, the managing director, confirmed the high-grade potential of the area, evidenced by a 9.5-ounce gold doré bar produced from a bulk sample of ore-bearing rock.

The excavation has advanced Iceni’s understanding of the geological structure, providing a model for further exploration both at Christmas Gift and in the broader Everleigh Well area.

The Everleigh area, known for its historical gold mining activities and prolific gold nugget findings, includes numerous historical workings, enhancing the prospectivity of this location for ongoing exploration.

Alliance Nickel (ASX: AXN)

Alliance Nickel has been granted Major Project Status (MPS) by the Australian government for its NiWest nickel-cobalt project in Western Australia, recognising its strategic importance and potential contribution to national economic growth and job creation.

NiWest, which is the first Australian nickel project to receive MPS designation since nickel was added to Australia’s critical minerals list in 2024, is poised to annually produce 90,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate and 7,000 tonnes of cobalt sulphate.

The project is expected to generate around 600 construction jobs and 300 operational jobs, underscoring its impact on employment.

The MPS will facilitate rapid project advancement by helping to coordinate regulatory approvals and has attracted attention from major industry players, including Samsung SDI, which has signed a non-binding term sheet for the future offtake of battery-grade nickel and cobalt sulphate products.

Titomic (ASX: TTT)

Titomic, an additive manufacturing company, has made its first US sale of its custom kinetic fusion (TKF) system to Massachusetts-based Triton Systems for $1.2 million, marking a major stride in its commercial strategy.

The TKF system will enhance Triton’s capabilities in rapid and cost-effective manufacturing of large-area, high-performance parts from a variety of metals, enabling the development of new applications in sectors like defence and aerospace.

Triton will use the TKF system for applications including armaments, electromagnetic shielding, propulsion systems, and more, joining other defence users like the Royal Netherlands Army.

The partnership between Titomic and Triton began in 2020, culminating in this sale under a strategic agreement that supports Titomic’s expansion in the US defence and commercial sectors, including upcoming projects under a DoD grant scheme.

Titomic’s managing director, Herbert Koeck, emphasised that this sale validates their technology and commercial strategy, particularly for demanding applications in defence and other industries.

Southern Cross Electrical Engineering (ASX: SXE)

Southern Cross Electrical Engineering’s subsidiary, SCEE Electrical, has been awarded a $160 million contract for the balance of plant works at the Collie Battery Energy Storage System (CBESS) near Perth, marking the largest initial contract in SCEE’s history.

The scope of work includes the installation of 640 battery container units, 220 kilometers of cabling, and various other infrastructure elements like substations and security buildings.

This project is part of Western Australia’s broader decarbonisation strategy, aiming to replace coal-fired power stations with renewable energy storage and generation by 2030.

The CBESS will connect to the South West Interconnected System, providing crucial short-duration storage during peak times to support grid stability.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2025, aligning with Australia’s goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Caprice Resources (ASX: CRS)

Caprice Resources has entered into a binding option agreement to acquire 90% of the Bantam project, a large tenement in Western Australia’s West Arunta region, known for its potential in niobium, rare earths and iron-oxide-copper-gold deposits.

The deal includes a 30-day due diligence period, with a $30,000 non-refundable option fee, and a subsequent payment of $1.03 million plus milestone payments totalling $1.1 million upon tenement approvals.

The vendor retains a 2% gross production royalty, with Caprice having rights to buy out a portion of this royalty and first refusal on any divestment.

The acquisition facilitates the creation of a joint venture between Caprice and HJH Nominees, with Caprice free-carrying the vendor until a mining decision is made and committing to spend at least $200,000 on exploration by June.

To fund the acquisition and ongoing exploration activities across its portfolio, Caprice is raising $1.5 million through the issue of shares and options to investors, with directors also contributing to the capital raise.

The week ahead

The Federal Government Budget which is released on Tuesday will be the dominant narrative for trading in the coming week with the indications so far being for a swing back to deficit as the tax cuts are delivered.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has also been clear that he is likely to add financial support to the Government’s plans to subsidise technology and low carbon energy developments amid a raft of world governments that are trying to “pick winners” by pump priming certain industries.

Budget may help consumer spending

We have to wait until the details are out on Tuesday to be sure but the tax cuts are set to pump up consumer spending as they flow through to workers from 1 July 2024.

There may also be Budget measures to help with the cost-of-living crisis, which also have the potential to move some share prices around.

The other really big influence on share market trade this week will be US measures of inflation and economic activity, including retail sales, housing starts and production.

Chinese data on retail sales, investment and production will also be closely watched for confirmation that the Chinese economy is firmly back into growth mode after the extended COVID induced slowdown.