Space buffs who missed the landing of NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Mars can watch it all over again with the release this morning of the actual Mission Control footage.

The craft touched down on the Red Planet on Friday after a seven-month journey and a distance of half a billion kilometres from Earth. If you’d tuned in, you would have only got the narrative and a dodgy CGI job of what it might have looked like.

Now, the real thing – NASA has released the real-time camera footage of the Mars landing that had staff at NASA’s Mission Control jumping for joy.

The plutonium-powered Rover will wander over Mars’ surface, sending back images and geological samples to be analysed by NASA for signs of anything interesting.

The $US3bn Perseverance mission follows two Mars missions undertaken this month by the United Arab Emirates and China which both have craft in orbit around the Red Planet.

Back here on Earth, the markets had an interesting morning’s trading.


To markets:

At lunch time in Sydney, the ASX All Ordinaries index was slightly in the green at 7,070 points, up 8 points from Monday’s close.

American markets provided confusing signals after overnight trade, with the Nasdaq index falling 2.4 per cent to 13,533 points, while the Dow Jones was just 27 points higher at 31,521 points.

“The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed lower Monday as climbing Treasury yields and prospects of rising inflation triggered valuation concerns, hitting shares of high-flying growth companies,” said stockbroker Argonaut in a note.

Bitcoin’s price fell below $70,000 in Australian terms, and was trading at $66,780 in morning trade.

The price of gold in US dollars rose marginally to $US1,810 per ounce ($2,285/ounce) on inflation concerns, a weaker US dollar and investors seeking a safe haven from equities.

US 10-year bond yields have popped to a year-high at 1.37 per cent.



Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks at 12pm Tuesday February 23:

Swipe or scroll to reveal the full table. Click headings to sort.

Stocks highlighted in yellow made market moving announcements
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Gold and copper explorer Lefroy Exploration (ASX:LEX) bounded 200 per cent higher in early Tuesday trade after hitting high-grade mineralisation at its Burns prospect in WA.

Two drill holes on the eastern margin of the Burns magnetic anomaly had outstanding intercepts including 60m at 5.22 grams per tonne gold and 0.38 per cent copper from 112m.

A similar magnetic anomaly named Smithers has been detected 300m north of the Burns drilling site and is yet to be tested. Both are within the explorer’s Lefroy gold project 60km south east of Kalgoorlie in WA.

Lefroy Exploration chairman, Gordon Galt, said the drilling results were outstanding and will be followed up as soon as possible.

“We will need to look north, south, east and deeper from this discovery hole to establish the structure which has delivered this intersection,” he said.


Aquis Entertainment sees 1,250 rise in share price since mid-Feb

Casino stock Aquis Entertainment (ASX:AQS) continued to notch up solid gains Tuesday, and so far has risen 1,250 per cent since mid-month without releasing any fresh news.

The operator of a Canberra casino, the company’s share price has gone up as its competitor Crown Resorts (ASX:CWN) has been put under the spotlight.

Crown’s difficulties increased with the announcement Monday that Victoria’s government has set up a Royal Commission into Crown’s Melbourne subsidiary.

The Commission is headed by Raymond Finkelstein QC and will look into Crown Melbourne’s suitability to hold a Victoria casino licence and the suitability of the parent company.

Crown said it will fully cooperate with the Royal Commission and the government of Victoria regarding recommendations from NSW’s Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority which published findings from its separate NSW inquiry last week.

“Crown welcomes the announcement from the Victorian government as it provides an opportunity to detail the reforms and changes to our business to deliver the highest standards of governance and compliance, and an organisational culture that meets community expectations,” Crown executive chairman, Helen Coonan, said.

The Victorian Royal Commission into Crown Melbourne will report on August 1, and the WA Gaming and Wagering Commission is carrying out an inquiry into Crown’s Perth casino.


Credit Intelligence launches BNPL platform for small business

Another strong performer was Credit Intelligence (ASX:CI1) which announced the launch of its BNPL operation YOZO Pay developed with the University of Technology Sydney.

YOZO Pay provides borrowers with a line of credit facility and flexible repayment options where costs are only incurred on drawdowns.

The platform is powered by artificial intelligence developed in collaboration with UTS. It aims to help small and medium business borrowers overcome cashflow challenges.

“This SME BNPL service is totally different from other personal BNPL products being offered in Australia right now,” executive chairman and managing director, Jimmie Wong, said.



Here are the worst performing ASX small cap stocks at 12pm Tuesday February 23:

Swipe or scroll to reveal the full table. Click headings to sort.

Stocks highlighted in yellow made market moving announcements
NTD National Tyre&Wheel 0.785 -26 1422253 $ 121,630,685.04
ANL Amani Gold Ltd 0.0015 -25 19573128 $ 21,573,993.49
ASP Aspermont Limited 0.029 -24 7414781 $ 87,737,821.29
ARC Aust Rural Cap Ltd 0.24 -20 166418 $ 3,883,872.00
XPE Xped Limited 0.002 -20 114000 $ 5,482,155.06
YPB YPB Group Ltd 0.002 -20 2272600 $ 11,802,628.22
PWN Parkway Minls NL 0.021 -19 160627134 $ 57,104,048.07
EMU EMU NL 0.074 -19 5421333 $ 32,432,894.68
LCT Living Cell Tech. 0.018 -18 1029099 $ 12,571,701.58
WOO Wooboard Tech Ltd 0.0075 -17 135625925 $ 27,249,330.68
UUV UUV Aquabotix Ltd 0.0025 -17 4490333 $ 7,165,124.43
VIC Victory Mines Ltd 0.0025 -17 6619666 $ 16,554,758.31
MSI Multistack Internat. 0.022 -15 452888 $ 2,919,902.02
ASB Austal Limited 2.1 -15 7230494 $ 888,108,395.85
OEX Oilex Ltd 0.003 -14 7365351 $ 14,583,716.08
AXE Archer Materials 1.04 -14 2262088 $ 271,123,855.20
WFL Wellfully Limited 0.083 -14 1751931 $ 14,062,764.77
FPL Fremont Petroleum 0.0035 -13 820000 $ 18,714,050.08
ROG Red Sky Energy. 0.0035 -13 14116083 $ 18,405,688.79
DCC Digitalx Limited 0.092 -12 5661862 $ 65,016,911.09
BOT Botanix Pharma Ltd 0.11 -12 4861362 $ 121,642,759.25
PRN Perenti Global Ltd 1.26 -12 2088464 $ 1,007,142,166.03
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National Tyre and Wheel (ASX:NTD) dropped significantly in price Tuesday with the announcement that US company Goodyear Tire and Rubber is to buy Cooper Tire and Rubber.

A National Tyre and Wheel subsidiary is the exclusive distributor of certain Cooper-branded tyre products in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Cooper tyre products accounted for about one quarter of the National Tyre and Wheel’s revenue and gross profit for the December 2020-ended half year.

This proportion has been steadily falling over recent years as the company has acquired other businesses.

The existing distribution agreement between NTD and Cooper Tire and Rubber expires next year, but can be extended for another five years with either parties’ consent.


Australian Rural Capital mulls investment proposals

Another large faller in the ASX small caps sector Tuesday was agricultural company Australian Rural Capital (ASX:ARC) which tumbled by around 33 per cent in early trade.

Very little news has emerged from the company whose main investment is a 9.6 per cent shareholding in NSW cotton company Namoi Cotton.

The cotton company has experienced difficult trading conditions with the NSW drought but is expected to become profitable in the next upturn in the cotton market in 2022.

ARC is seeking further investments for its capital and has received three expressions of interest for investment proposals which are being considered by the company.

Media company Aspermont’s (ASX:ASP) shares sustained some heavy selling pressure and told the ASX last week some corporate changes may have driven activity in its shares.

The media company recently appointed new corporate advisers in Singapore and a new investment relations team in Germany and has its shares quoted on the Frankfurt exchange.

“We believe a combination of the above has resulted in the increased price and trading volume seen recently,” said Aspermont in response to an ASX inquiry last week.