The ASX200 drifted higher in a largely uneventful session until the last hour of trade, when reports out of the Ukraine put a dampener on risk sentiment.

The large cap index still managed to finish higher (just) by 0.16%, after briefly dipping into the red from earlier gains of around +0.5%.

Investors responded to yet-to-be-confirmed updates from Russian media that the Ukraine had fired mortar shells on military positions in the Luhansk People’s Republic, a land-locked, pro-Russian separatist state which declared independence from the Ukraine in 2014.

Before anyone really knew what to make of the news, currency traders sold off the Aussie dollar as money moved into traditional safe havens — the USD and the Japanese yen.

A short time ago, the AUD had mounted a small comeback although the market reaction showed investors are still twitchy about the looming geopolitical threat.

S&P500 futures markets are trading around 0.5% lower, with no wholesale risk selloff as yet as all eyes turn to eastern Europe.


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As February reporting season gets into full swing, patent and trademark firm IPH Ltd (ASX:IPH) led the large cap pack following its results announcement this morning.

The IP (intellectual property) services group flagged particularly strong growth out of Asia, which contributed to half-year EBITDA of $68.3m with “improved margins”, and a small lift in its interim dividend to 14.5c per share.

Also rising strongly was ~$10bn gold major Northern Star (ASX:NST), which announced it would not be going forward with an investment in a Canada-based gold project with Osisko Mining Inc.

“Following extensive due diligence, Northern Star was unable to agree mutually acceptable terms with Osisko,” NST said. The company continues to hold a $169m debt investment in Osisko.

Back on the earnings wrap, and Australian fund managers have been in the wars lately but Challenger Ltd (ASX:CGF) bucked that trend with as markets approved of its trading update today.

The ~$4.28bn fundie reported a 20% lift in group assets under management $115 billion, and a 21% increase in its half year dividend 11.5c.

Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) climbed back to its highest level since before the pandemic following the release of its annual report, while bookmaker Tabcorp Holdings (ASX:TAH) rose to four-year highs after flagging record results from its Lotteries & Keno businesses.


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Large cap losses were led by ~~$62bn conglomerate Wesfarmers (ASX:WES) which suffered one of its biggest falls in years, after committing a forbidden sin among ASX blue chips — cutting its dividend.

CEO Rob Scott said the December half, “was the most disrupted period for our businesses since the onset of COVID-19, with extended government-mandated store closures and trading restrictions in Australia and New Zealand”.

As a result, the Wesfarmers board settled on an interim per-share dividend of 80c — down from 88c in the prior year period. Even still: