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ASX closes at new 14-month high

ASX hits 14-month high, ANZ dividend surprise, Nearmap upgrades revenue guidance 

The ASX200 (ASX:XJO) reached a 14-month high, adding 0.4% and once again nearing a record. The primary driver was the healthcare sector, up 1.1%, with key constituent CSL (ASX:CSL) up 2.4% offering the majority of the support.

Private hospital, imaging, and COVID-19 testing firm Healius (ASX:HLS) finished flat despite reporting that its non-COVID business was recovering, with revenue increasing 5%.

  • The biggest drivers were an 8% increase in imaging and 25% in day hospital and similar surgeries, all of which came on top of the three million COVID-19 tests processed by the group.

    By far the biggest highlight was ANZ Banking Group (ASX:ANZ) finally putting investors out of their misery, delivering a 45% increase in cash profit to $2.98 billion.

    Most importantly, management declared a dividend of 70 cents per share, ahead of expectations, and double that paid in 2020.

    CEO Shayne Elliott called out Westpac (ASX:WBC) on their massive cost-cutting program, highlighting the risk to morale of mass layoffs but announcing a 2% fall in costs for his own firm.

    The pandemic era had bad debts further reduced, with $500 million released sending the bank’s capital ratio into a very strong position.

    Mapping the future, QBE dividends to recommence, Amcor’s resilience grows

    Aerial imaging group Nearmap (ASX:NEA) had another busy day with the share price leading the market, jumping 14.6% after management increased their revenue guidance to $128-$132 million from $120-$128 million last year.

    Soon after the company entered a trading halt confirming it had been issued with legal proceeds in the US but offering little in the way of the associated claims. The company remains confident in delivering 20-40% revenue growth targets from 2022 onwards.

    QBE Insurance (ASX:QBE) added 4.1% after management confirmed a dividend would be paid before the end of 2021 and would likely reflect around 65% of cash profit.

    The company has performed well, with premiums increased 10%, however, the majority has come from higher costs to existing customers up 9.8%, rather than growth in their member base.

    Responsible packaging producer Amcor (ASX:AMC) reported $55 million in synergies from their Bemis acquisitions and has since upgraded their earnings range from 10-14% to 14-15%, a significant improvement. Third quarter profit was 58% higher at US$684 million with the dividend set to increase; shares added 2.7%.

    Tech tank continues, Dow’s new record, GM, Peloton report 

    The Dow Jones finished 0.3% higher on Wednesday, reaching another record as the Nasdaq continued its sell-off, falling 0.4%.

    All eyes remain on the Federal Reserve members, with the Boston Federal ReservePresident Eric Rosengren comparing an expected temporary rise in price levels (inflation) to the toilet paper and disinfectant shortage that occurred in 2020.

    The pressure continues to grow on COVID winners, including Peloton Interactive (NASDAQ:PTON), which makes treadmills and SPIN bikes, with the stock falling 14.6% after being forced by the regulator to recall a malfunctioning product following the death of a child.

    The old world value businesses continue to drive the market with General Motors (NYSE:GM) smashing expectations, with earnings per share of US$2.25 more than double the $1.08 expected by analysts after seeing revenue grow to US$32.5 billion for the quarter.

    The company is focusing on higher value cars and making less of them; however, the semiconductor chip shortage is starting to bite.

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