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ASX retreats; Qantas, Flight Centre lead travel slump
Daily Market Update

ASX falls late, AGL (ASX:AGL) seeking battery approval, coal prices boosted by floods

The ASX200 (ASX:XJO) fell into the close ending 0.1% lower, with the materials sector the biggest detractor falling 1.5%.

The selling pressure came after one of the key Chinese smelting cities announced curbs on steelmaking operations as they seek to address environmental concerns. This sent the iron ore price lower; BHP and RIO fell 0.9% and 1.1% respectively.

The energy sector was the standout jumping 2.8%, with AGL Energy (ASX:AGL) leading the market up 5.1% after announcing their intention to seek approval for the construction of a 200MW battery at the Loy Yang power station.

On the flipside, coal prices have reached a near three-year high due to the massive flooding throughout NSW and the Hunter Valley.

Despite the strength, Whitehaven Coal (ASX:WHC) shares fell 1.1% after downgrading their sales expectations to 18.5 million tonnes.

Travel-related stocks were also hit heavily with Flight Centre (ASX:FLT) and Corporate Travel (ASX:CTM) down 4.2% and 3.9% despite improving news regarding the vaccine rollout.

New Zealand offers an insight into property measures, Kathmandu (ASX:KMD) not paying back JobKeeper

The New Zealand Government announced a sweeping range of reforms to cool down an overheating property market.

The proposals included tax breaks offered to investors and applying macro-prudential restrictions on interest-only loans.

Economists cheered the strategy but noted the significant and immediate impact it will have on property prices.

Retailer Kathmandu announced a 42% increase in earnings to NZ$95.4 million on the back of a 12.9% increase in first-half sales.

The result benefited from the NZ$20 million government and rent subsidies that management confirmed it will not be repaying; shares finished 9.3% higher.

Sigma Healthcare (ASX:SIG) shares jumped 4.5% after bouncing back from a loss in 2020 as revenue increased 4.8% to $3.4 billion at their network of pharmacies. Net profit quadrupled to $59.8 million as the company continues to recover.

The latest IPO darling Airtasker, which offers a marketplace for day-to-day tasks finished 77% higher on debut with investors flocking to the ‘tech’ platform.

US markets lower, WHO highlights ‘truly worrying trends’, oil tumbles 

US markets finished broadly lower overnight ahead of further testimony from the Federal Reserve.

The Nasdaq was down 1.1%, the Dow Jones 0.0%, and the S&P500 0.8% after the World Health Organisation called out developed countries for ‘truly worrying trends’ around their domination of vaccine supply.

Director General Tedros highlighted the fact that case numbers are still increasing in most regions and this increases the threat of further variants emerging.

The case numbers sent the oil price 6% lower on concerns the likes of Europe will take longer to recover amid a slowing vaccine rollout.

Microsoft (NYSE:MSFT) is said to be considering the purchase of Discord Inc, an in-game chat community used by video gamers during the pandemic, adding to its stable ancillary businesses alongside LinkedIn.

Nintendo Inc (TYO:7974) was the latest company to upgrade their hardware, confirming a deal with NVIDIA (NYSE:NVDA) to use their latest chips within the new iteration of the Switch handheld console.

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