ASX 200 morning report – what to watch Thursday

The S&P/ASX 200 (ASX: XJO) index is expected to open slightly higher, following the US markets overnight.

Market flat, pivots continue

The ASX200 finished broadly flat on Wednesday, oscillating between a loss of 1.5% to a slight gain as initial election results filtered through. The day, though, was a story of two sectors, financials and banks taking a hit whilst consumer-facing businesses recovered.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) announced a record low 1.99% 4-year fixed term mortgage rate following the RBA rate cut, and the subject research note from Morgan Stanley highlighting the huge impact that falling interest rates can have on the profitability of the banking sector (and therefore its ability to pay dividends).

On the other hand, the NSW Government announced the border with Victoria would reopen on the 23rd of November, supporting a broad-based rally in industrials, including toll road owner Transurban (ASX: TCL), along with the property sector, Vicinity Centres (ASX: VCX) finishing 2.7% higher. It wasn’t all good news as the Chinese government ramped up pressure on the Australian economy, with whispers of soft import bans on copper, wine and sugar among others.

Featured investors podcast: Pro Medicus CEO Dr Sam Hupert

Woolworths delivers

Australian retail sales fell 1.1% in September, better than the 1.5% fall expected which bodes well for a recovery in economic growth in the December quarter; albeit not for those businesses which have sales falling. Woolworths Ltd (ASX: WOW) continues to buck the trend, reporting a 12.3% increase in sales for the third quarter, to $17.9 billion.

Supermarkets were the highlight, up 11.5%, with Victorian’s continuing to spend heavily on food in lockdown, the state’s sales up 20% alone. Online sales the new standout for the group, with concerns about slowing sales post the pandemic now being offset with hope for more growth in the higher-margin online and click and collect offers.

Online sales doubled in the quarter moving to 8% of total sales and remains a key focus on management in the year ahead. The trend was similar across liquor sales, with Endeavour Drinks seeing revenue increase 20% and BIG W continuing to recover, up 22.3% despite a number of stores being shut in Victoria. Shares finished 0.7% lower on the news and are still 10% below their all-time high.

Uber stock speeds upward

It was an incredible day on Wednesday, with election odds swinging wildly throughout as first voting results came in. As we publish this morning, it is looking more like a Biden-Democrat victory, in what will be one of the closest election outcomes in recent years. Once again, the value and accuracy of polls have come into question with most battleground states far closer than anyone predicted — a long way from the Biden Blue Wave or whitewash so many were predicting.

Despite the likelihood that the election may not be called for several days and recounts may be required, sharemarkets have taken this as a positive, with the S&P500 up 2.2% and the Nasdaq up 4.4%.

Why is it a positive?

It is almost the perfect result for major companies, with the very close Senate result not offering the Democrats the ability to repeal Trump’s tax cuts nor push forward on parts of their transformational agenda; once again politicians will be forced to work together.

At this point, the last few days has reiterated the importance of not making a major investment decision on unpredictable outcomes, like election results. Company-wise, the highlight of the day has been Uber Technologies (NASDAQ: UBER) which added 12.0% after laws in California forcing them to treat all drivers as employees were repealed, an appropriate decision given drivers are able to work for multiple rideshare companies at the same time.

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