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ASX broadly flat, retail sales decline again

Defensive assets

ASX broadly flat, retail sales decline again, TPW smashed, flat lead
The ASX battled to a flat finish on Wednesday, adding 0.1%, with gains in energy and financials offsetting weakness in the consumer sectors. 
Retail sales results were released with every state apart from the NT falling in September, national sales were down 1.5%. 
This was the second straight month of contraction suggesting consumers may be tiring of online spending and beginning to save once again. 
It wasn’t good news for Temple and Webster Ltd (ASX:TPW) which fell 17.2% despite reporting sales were 138% higher for the year to date. 
The company is up fivefold in the last 12 months despite delivering earnings of just $8.6 million in 2020. 
There is a long list of similar e-commerce companies seeking to list on the ASX before the end of the year, clearly capitalising on the popularity of anything ‘online’. Be wary. 
Woolworths (ASX:WOW) and Wesfarmer’s (ASX:WES) both fell after the retail sales result, down 1.3% and 1.5% respectively. 
CEO Brad Banducci suggested that online sales are only set to grow for Woolies in the year ahead.
Westpac fine approved, Orora surprises, toll roads still a tough business
The financial sector added 0.9% as investors prepare for quarterly updates next week, National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX:NAB) was the leader up 1.6%. 
Westpac finished 1.0% higher despite the record $1.3 billion fine being approved by the Federal Court. 
Bottle manufacturer Orora Ltd (ASX:ORA) was the highlight of the day, increasing 8.0% after providing a trading update. 
Management indicated that Australian volumes were in line with 2019 levels but that the US was ahead of expectations. 
Having followed the company for some time, the rally was a surprise given the 2019 US result was well below expectations at the time. 
Atlas Arteria (ASX:ALX) which owns toll roads in the US and France showed signs of normality, traffic on average down 4.7% but the Washington Dulles asset still 44% of its 2019 level. 
With lockdowns expanding in France, it looks like another tough period ahead. 
Despite the weak result, toll revenue was only down 4.0% on 2019 levels, but in my view it still seems a little early to be rotating back into these highly leverage assets.
Wall street flat, Netflix disappoints, PayPal does a deal with Bitcoin
US markets finished broadly flat with renewed hopes of a stimulus package from the Democrat’s, but the focus has been on reporting season. 
The S&P 500 managed to finish 0.2% lower with the Nasdaq down 0.3%. 
Streaming service Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) was the biggest drag after reporting just 2.2 million new subscribers, well off the 2.5 million forecast, shares fell over 8% on the day. 
Asia Pacific remained a highlight growing 46%. 
The result is evidencing two things in my view, the first is the sheer speed at which this company and many similar ones continue to grow, and the somewhat unrealistic expectations placed on quarterly earnings estimates. 
Staying the technology sector, digital payments leader Paypal (NASDAQ:PYPL) lead the market finishing 5.4% higher after announcing it would allow users to trade Bit Coin on its platform at no cost. 
The sector is an important part of the Munro Global Growth Fund we interviewed yesterday on our podcast.

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