Australia’s technology sector and lithium miners were the unlikely heroes that helped to push the ASX 200 to a 1.6% rise for the week to 6578.7 points.
It is not normal to see the overall market rise when the big miners are mainly lower and the big four banks, except for Commonwealth, are also all lower.
However, the strength in technology was the key to the 0.8% rise on Friday, which went some way to counteracting the hefty 7.7% fall across the last month.
Central bank action raising chances of a recession
There is no secret behind what caused the big falls this month with major central banks around the world lifting official interest rates to tackle rising inflation – in the process increasing the potential of a global recession.
Markets were particularly worried by comments from US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that showed he was determined to get inflation lower, even if that increased recession risks.
That message was perhaps softened a little in his second day of a congressional hearing in which he said that the central bank would be “reluctant” to start cutting rates in an economic downturn if inflation was still too high.
“We can’t fail on this, we’re going to want to see evidence that (inflation) really is coming down before we declare ‘mission accomplished’,” Powell told the hearing.
US tech shares rise
The US market saw this as perhaps a little more positive and the Dow Jones closed up 0.6%, the S&P 500 index up 1% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq up by an impressive 1.6%.
It was the rise in the Nasdaq that inspired our beaten down local tech stocks to go for a run, dragging the rest of the market with it with the notable exceptions of materials and energy.
As a sector technology climbed an impressive 6%, with some of the better performers including a 24.9% rise in Life360 (ASX: 360) shares, a 15.9% jump in Megaport (ASX: MP1), a 7.5% rise in accounting software company Xero (ASX: XRO), an 8.4% rise in WiseTech (ASX: WTC) shares and a 10.9% rise in Block (ASX: SQ2).
While all of those rises seem impressive, they come more in the form of a bounce from some of the more savage falls on the market, but with the traditional Australian barbell stocks of miners and banks not really firing, the sunny respite for technology stocks was very helpful.
Lithium miners join the technology bounce
Lithium stocks that were smashed on Thursday were the other big recovery story with deeply troubled Lake Resources (ASX: LKE) shares rising 15%.
Also getting in on the lithium resurgence were Liontown (ASX: LTR) up 10.8%, Core Lithium (ASX: CXO) up 8.9%, Pilbara Minerals (ASX: PLS) rising 8.8% and lithium miner Vulcan Energy (ASX: VUL) really got airborne with a 26.8% increase to $6.34.
Vulcan shares were responding very positively to the deal in which car maker Stellantis took an 8% stake in the company, with the maker of Peugeot, Maserati, Fiat, Chrysler and Alfa Romeo cars trying to get a stronger supply chain for minerals that it needs to electric vehicle batteries.
Energy stocks were also broadly weaker while the big banks were also underperformers on the market with Commonwealth’s (ASX: CBA) 0.5% rise not followed by its big four colleagues which all fell.
Small cap stock action
The Small Ords index was 1.07% higher for the week to close on 2699.3 points.
Small cap companies making headlines this week were:
Resource Base (ASX: RBX)
Resource Base has been granted three new tenements for its Mitre Hill project, with step out drilling already underway on a licence where clay-hosted rare earth elements were discovered.
The newly granted tenements encompass 623sq km of the Mitre Hill project, which is located in the Murray Basin and crosses the South Australian and Victorian borders.
All three tenements abut land where clay-hosted REE have been intercepted in drilling.
Aircore drilling is underway at EL007646 within the project, which was already granted and tested earlier this year.
This program is focused on the northwest of the tenement where higher-grade REE was uncovered and comprised grades up to 1,421ppm TREO from 3m.
Mitre Hill now has five granted exploration licences with 12 under application. All-up, the tenements cover 2,600sq km in what Resource Base describes as an emerging clay-hosted REE region of potential global significance.
Group 6 Metals (ASX: G6M)
Despite global challenges, Group 6 Metals has reported it remains on schedule to deliver first tungsten concentrate from its Dolphin mine in Q1 2023.
Located on Tasmania’s King Island, development activities are on track at Dolphin, with chief executive officer Keith McKnight saying he was “very pleased” with the progress.
He said remaining on schedule at Dolphin was possible due to Group 6 placing orders for major equipment last year.
Most major components are expected to be at Dolphin by next month, which will further de-risk the project’s development timeline.
Mr McKnight said the next six months would be a “very busy time” for the company as development work continues at the mine site.
Far East Gold (ASX: FEG)
Far East Gold’s Woyla project in Indonesia is looking even more promising after recent petrographic studies confirmed the presence of free gold associated with sulphides in samples taken from the project’s Anak Perak, Rek Rinti, Aloe Eumpeuk and Aloe Rek vein systems.
Samples returned peak bonanza gold and silver grades of 76g/t gold (Aloe Rek), and 581g/t silver (Rek Rinti).
Other minerals were also present a peak of 8,069ppm copper (Anak Perak), 57ppm barium (Rek Rinti), 5ppm bismuth (Rek Rinti, Anak Perak, Aloe Eumpeuk, and Aloe Rek), 26ppm molybdenum (Aloe Rek), 36,400ppm lead (Anak Perak), 224ppm antimony (Aloe Rek), and 48,400ppm zinc (Anak Perak).
Far East Gold noted the results confirm Newcrest Mining’s findings during its previous exploration at the project.
Preparations are now underway for a phase one drilling program which will comprise 10 holes for 1,400m of diamond core drilling.
Dart Mining (ASX: DTM)
Spodumene has been determined as the primary lithium mineral at Dart Mining’s Dorchap project in Victoria.
X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis of 74 drill core samples identified spodumene mineralisation in 58% of the material, while 11% had both petalite and spodumene.
Best spodumene-only results were 10m at 14.5% spodumene, 10m at 8.6%, 10m at 9.6%, 4.8m at 10.6% and 4m at 13.5%.
Previous sampling at Dorchap has unearthed 1.57% lithium, 9.98% tin and 0.1% tantalum, and 838ppm caesium.
“These latest XRD analyses across the project demonstrate the effectiveness of geochemical mapping for pin-pointing that main target area for lithium prospectivity,” Dart chairman James Chirnside said.
Wide Open Agriculture (ASX: WOA)
Wide Open Agriculture’s plant-based protein pilot plant was officially opened on Friday, with WA’s Minster for Regional Development, Agriculture and Food, and Hydrogen Alannah MacTiernan present.
The plant will produce Wide Open’s proprietary Buntine Protein, with 60% of the protein produced over the next two years already contracted to Monde Nissin Australia, which owns Nudie, Black Swan and Peckish food and beverage brands.
With the plant officially opened, the first Buntine Protein shipment is expected to be sent to Monde later this month.
Using Wide Open’s proprietary technology, Buntine Protein is made from WA sweet lupin.
LiveHire (ASX: LVH)
A subsidiary of U$4.8 billion NYSE-listed Manpower Group Talent Solutions TAPFIN has engaged LiveHire to provide its direct sourcing solutions.
TAPFIN selected LiveHire’s Total Talent Acquisition and Direct Sourcing platform after a competitive tender process.
LiveHire noted the deal would be on its “standard commercial terms” but is unable to quantify the value at this stage.
“However, the board believes that due to the size of TAPFIN, the size of its North American client base, and the process undertaken, this is a significant milestone for the company,” LiveHire stated.
The deal provides scope for LiveHire’s solution to be offered to TAPFIN’s other clients outside of North America, including Europe, the UK and Asia Pacific.
The week ahead
The coming week is a very different one for investors, with the last week of the financial year traditionally leading to a lot of share turnover as investors chalk up some tax losses to put on their tax returns.
That leads to a lot of portfolio shuffling from institutions and small investors alike so it can present some great opportunities, with stocks that have fallen a lot but may have a reasonable long term outlook often going very cheaply.
On the data side, central banks move out of the picture in the coming week with retail spending, job vacancies and home prices probably the main Australian points of interest.
Other things to watch out for include consumer sentiment, a swag of 2021 census data, population figures, job vacancies, engineering construction activity, job advertisements, private sector credit and manufacturing figures.
Looking overseas, US inflation data will be pivotal with investors hoping for any indication that the pace of price rises is starting to turn.
Other US releases include pending home sales, chain store sales, consumer confidence and home prices.
Chinese data will also be interesting because it should show how the economy is recovering from a series of crippling COVID-19 lockdowns, through purchasing manager’s indexes and private sector manufacturing figures.