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ASX falls 0.8%, China’s economic miracle

Equities

ASX falls 0.8%, retail in the spotlight, China’s economic miracle, QBE gets slammed

The ASX200 (ASX:XJO) started the week on a negative footing, falling 0.8%.

The discretionary retail (0.2%) and IT (0.5%) sectors were the only highlights but weren’t sufficient to offset a fall in the materials sector (-1.9%).

  • It was the normal culprits pushing the market lower, with BHP (ASX:BHP) down 2.9% despite iron ore prices nearing an all-time high last week.

    Chinese economic data was released overnight which position the economy as the only major developed country to achieve positive growth in the ‘pandemic year’, finishing up 2.3% for 2020.

    It was Chinese Government policy in action that saw GDP jump 5.6% in the December quarter, driven by industrial production and retail sales which were 7.3% and 4.6% higher in response to lower taxes and greater infrastructure spending.

    Despite the headlines, this does bode well for the Australian economy which has a significant amount of two-way trade.

    Healthcare was the most surprising sector, with Pro Medicus (ASX:PME) and private hospital operator Ramsay Healthcare (ASX:RHC) increasing 11.8% and 5.6% despite a lack of any news.

    Investors may be pre-empting a release of stringent lockdowns in the US and Europe.

    Retail remains the standout, Premier (ASX:PMV) loses CEO, JB Hi-Fi (ASX:JBH) sales jump

    Shares in specialist electronics and white goods retailer JB Hi-Fi (ASX:JBH) added 3.8% today after flagging an 86% increase in profit for the first half of the year, hitting $371.1 million.

    The discount retailers operating leverage was on show with the result coming on the back of a 23.7% increase in sales to $4.94 billion.

    Management noted the resilience of its business model, continuing to pay both staff and rent throughout the first half and not receiving any Job Keeper payments.

    The record sales result was driven by a 161% increase in online or click and collect sales, which increased to $678.8 million or 13.7% of total sales.

    With the growing likelihood that Australian’s will not be travelling for at least another 12 months, JBH’s sales potential may still be underappreciated.

    Super Retail Group (ASX:SUL) shares fell 1% despite reporting a 23% increase in first-half sales to $1.7 billion, a record result, and announcing the repayment of their Job Keeper benefits.

    Boating Camping Fishing, or BCF, was the highlight growing total sales at 51% and online sales by 113% for the period to Boxing Day.

    Mark McInnes, the CEO of leading retailer Premier Investments (ASX:PMV) has decided to step down from his role after ten years after successfully guiding the company through 2020.

    Martin Luther King holiday in the US, QBE Insurance whacked by courts

    QBE Insurance Group (ASX:QBE) was the biggest detractor after losing another court case in the UK related to the payout of business interruption due to COVID-19.

    The UK High Court ruled in favour of businesses in what was deemed a test case by the UK Government. 

    This doesn’t bode well for short-term profitability, with the total allowance for COVID-19 now out to $785 million; shares fell 5.7%.

    It is the Martin Luther King holiday in the US, so markets are closed with little in the way of news before Biden takes the White House on Wednesday.


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