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Market mulls mixed China data

Daily Market Update

A better-than-expected performance by China’s economy in the December quarter was not enough to inspire the Australian stock market on Tuesday, perhaps overshadowed by a data release showing a fall in China’s population for the first time in decades.
According to a release from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the population of mainland China was 1.411 billion people at the end of 2022, a decrease of 850,000 over the previous year. China’s economic expansion has been driven by the growth of a younger labour force, but the surprise population drop – the first since the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s – may presage that era coming to an end.
As it was, the Chinese economy grew by 2.9 per cent in the December 2022 quarter: while better than expectations for 1.6 per cent growth, the figure is a significant slowdown on the 3.9 per cent growth in the third quarter of 2022. For 2022, the annual gross domestic product came in at 3 per cent. In the December quarter, China’s retail sales and industrial production both smashed expectations.
Rio Tinto disappoints
China’s economic numbers are a major influence on the local market, particularly on the miners that supply the Middle Kingdom with raw materials. The release from Beijing coincided with Rio Tinto’s figures on iron ore export volumes, which disappointed the market: while Rio shipped 321.63 million tonnes from Western Australia in 2022, a rise of 1 per cent, earnings from the iron ore business will be lower because of a 26 per cent fall in received iron ore prices over the year.
Rio also said on Tuesday that unit costs in the Australian iron ore division had risen above the $US21 a tonne maximum it had promised. Rio Tinto shares shed $1.50, or 1.2 per cent, to $120.67; while BHP slid 55 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $49.14, and Fortescue Metals was down 25 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to 22.03.
The S&P/ASX 200 Index eased 1.9 points to 7386.3 after touching a nine-month high on Monday, and the All Ordinaries closed 7.4 points weaker at 7597.6.
In energy, Woodside Energy added 7 cents, or 0.2 per cent, to $37.37, and Santos gained 4 cents, or 0.5 per cent, to $7.38.
Among the big banks, ANZ rose 2 cents to $24.91; Commonwealth Bank added 3 cents to $107.44; and National Australia Bank advanced 3 cents, to $31.64; but Westpac closed down 4 cents, to $23.97. Biotech heavyweight CSL gained $3.02 to $290.56.
JB Hi-Fi shares failed to capitalise on stronger-than-expected Christmas trading, finishing 59 cents, or 1.3 per cent, lower at $46.51. The company’s sales rose 8.6 per cent to $5.3 billion for the six months ended December 31 – beating consensus expectations for 6.2 per cent growth. Continued sales growth, combined with improved gross margins, resulted in strong earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) growth of 14 per cent, to $479.2 million.
Goldman drags Dow lower
In the US, the broad S&P 500 index eased 8.1 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 3,990.97; the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 391.8 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 33,910.9, hurt by a 6.4 per cent slide in Goldman Sachs after the bank reported its worst earnings miss in a decade; and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index gained 16 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 11,095.1. On the commodities front, Brent crude oil jumped US$2.18, or 2.6 per cent, to US$86.64 a barrel, West Texas Intermediate oil rose 32 cents, or 0.4 per cent, to US$80.18 a barrel, and gold lost US$9.51, or 0.5 per cent, to US$1,908.56. The Australian dollar is buying 69.85 US cents this morning.

Drew Meredith

  • Drew is publisher of the Inside Network's mastheads and a principal adviser at Wattle Partners.

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