Australian markets have opened this morning, which is a pretty bold move considering how poorly that particular endeavour has been going so far this week.

And I’m not gonna lie – the first 5 minutes of trade this morning were a bit fraught, as the benchmark took off into a now-familiar downward spiral for those initial worrying minutes.

But then – oh, my stars! – the benchmark began to climb and for the first time since I reached the ripe old age of 50, the ASX 200 dared to strut into pre-lunch positive territory, to hit +0.3%.

But while Aussie investors are celebrating what amounts to a speck of Win at the foot of Mount Losses, I’d like you to stop and consider the sinking fortunes of everyone who furiously re-skilled  – just like we were all meant to – to take up jobs in the tech sector when every other possible gig dried up in 2018.

Everyone by now would be well aware of the brutal layoffs among the Monsters of Tech. Meta alone has axed 11,000 jobs late last year, and recently put half of its workforce on deathwatch by slamming them with unsatisfactory performance reviews.

However, the team at Alphabet, parent company to the billion-tentacled monstrosity that is Google, among others, comes news that is either a terrifying indictment on the state of the tech sector in general, or good news if you’ve recently been fired.

CNET is reporting that Alphabet’s latest round of layoffs has put about 100 one-armed robots out of a job, the cruellest of blows for the hapless little beep-boops, given their obvious disability.

The robots were designed and put to use picking up rubbish in the Alphabet cafeteria, a task that was as mindless as it was endless, because tech geeks are world famous for being grossly overweight pigs who were never taught how to clean up after themselves.

Robots everywhere are reportedly furious at the move, with the general secretary of the  United Brotherhood of Robot Workers trade union – a 19-metre tall Japanese Gundam robot – forgoing the usual press conference to complain and skipping straight to the bit where it lays waste to half of Yokohama City.

Many people were killed, etc.

But what that does mean is that there are a handful of openings for actual human beings to take up the slack in the Alphabet cafeteria, so to any of the thousands of humans the company has fired in recent months who feel like picking up after their former workmates, Alphabet’s probably hiring.

 

TO MARKETS

I know I’m not the only one who is quietly happy that the market has finally decided to get with the program and start climbing higher today. Otherwise, this week would have been a total bust.

After a minor heart attack-inducing downward tickle at open, the benchmark’s needle pushed into the green and by the time the devon and tomato sauce sangers were being stuffed into greedy mouths around the nation, it was up 0.4%.

InfoTech is leading the charge today, up 1.79% with solid support from Industrials (+1.52%) and Real Estate (+1.19%). The only meaningful drag on the market is Materials, which is still in the doldrums on -0.75%.

In Big Biznus Land, logistics mob Brambles (ASX:BXB) is up 7.5% after announcing an underlying profit rise of 25%, and the retirement of CFO Nessa O’Sullivan, no doubt due to the sheer exhaustion of being forced to hand-count every single penny in the weeks leading up to its earnings report.

And Blessed Be The Cheesemakers, because Bega (ASX:BGA) has bounced 6.4% this morning – but that’s in the shadow of yesterday’s -8.5% trading price bowel movement that heavily suggested the company’s lactose intolerance issues had returned.

It’s worth noting at this point that Stockhead prides itself on being a progressive and  inclusive company, where any form of intolerance – lactose or otherwise – simply won’t be tolerated.

There ya go, HR. Implement that policy and stay fashionable.

 

NOT THE ASX

In the US overnight, Wall Street took a break from losing its shirt in a Lower East Side illegal poker room, instead trotting down Broadway for a picnic lunch in the shade of the balls of a large bronze bull that is (I know from personal experience) 100% not worth trying to climb because the NYPD gets very upset when you do.

As Earlybird Eddy Sunarto reports, despite the harrowing howls of the US Fed banshees foreshadowing interest rate doom, all three major indices dared to venture into positive territory, and by the end of the day the Dow was up 0.33%, the S&P had risen 0.53% and the severely battered Nasdaq added 0.72%.

A big chunk of that came from a mammoth 14% hike by Nvidia, after the chipmaker cited soaring demand for AI processors as the reason its outlook is chunkier than a pavement pizza outside the Golden Sheaf on a Saturday night.

Nvidia’s announcement sparked a flurry of commentary, but hands-down the very best in top quality analysis is this:

 

 

During that earnings call, Nvidia uttered the word “AI” no less than 75 times – and for every time it was said, the company’s market cap went up US$573 million.

Now, I’m an old man, and while I honestly don’t remember very much from the 1990s, three things are very clear in my memory.

    1. The music was amazing and will never, ever be that good again.
    2. Hypercolour T-Shirts were the single-most incredible fashion inventory the world has ever seen.
    3. Any CEO who was able to utter the phrase “Information Superhighway” was assured of doubling or tripling their stock price overnight.

It’s now 2023, and while the music is horrible and every hypercolour T-shirt ever made is permanently the wrong colour because of everyone’s grossly hot and moist armpits, any CEO who can link their company to AI in even a vaguely meaningful way is already laughing all the way to the Land of the Long White Performance Bonus.

I don’t want to say that we’re heading for another bubble, but… if it walks like a bubble, and it quacks like a bubble, it’s either a bubble or you should stop taking drugs.

Meanwhile, Netflix continues to demonstrate that it’s hard to get lucky but easy to f–k it up once you have, shedding 3% after announcing that its latest attempt at reputational repair is unpopular with the punters.

Already under fire for cracking down on password-sharing and cancelling all the good shows it was making because the algorithm said so, Netflix tried to put some Corporate Social Responsibility™ bandaids on the wounds by reducing fees for more than 100 “low income” markets.

I look forward to the late-night, tear-jerker advertisements to tell me that for just $1 a day, I can help children ”just like little Nkambi” watch Stranger Things in High Definition on a television that they definitely don’t own.

In Asian market news the Nikkei is up 0.65%, driven higher by a productivity outbreak, thanks to this amazing new product called Funbaruzu – a small stuffed animal with a heart-shaped cushion inside that you place between your belly and your desk to help correct your posture while fostering nascent desires to become a Furry.

 

asx winner Avita Medical
Admit it – you secretly want one, don’t you? Pic via Dreams Co Ltd / PR TIMES

 

I used to work with a guy who would routinely have something sticking up like that between his gut and his desk, but he was fired after repeated warnings from HR.

In China, where the markets are just rumbling into life, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is down  1.25% while Shanghai has set off determinedly in a downward direction for reasons known only to the CCP, falling 0.28%.

In crypto-land, BTC has climbed 0.5% towards US$24,000 again, after taking a pounding along with the actual markets this week.

Meanwhile Coinbase has announced the launch of Base – a new “layer 2” network (a blockchain built on top of another to scale or provide extra capabilities) with the aim of attracting millions of crypto users in coming years.

It’s a prudent move by Coinbase, because building a new “layer 2” network with the aim of repelling millions of users seems a bit pointless, really.

As always, Rob “The Bull Shark” Badman has more details on that and the rest of the crypto market over at Mooners and Shakers.

 

ASX SMALL CAP WINNERS

Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks for February 24 [intraday]:

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

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On the Small Caps winners chart, someone’s playing silly-buggers somewhere because the Top Three spots percentage-wise are occupied by two tiny companies up more than 20% each on not even the faintest whisper of news.

The third spot is held by BikeExchange (ASX:BEX) – a company that has circled the drain so many times in the past 12 months, I’m seriously considering getting them in to clean my bathroom and kitchen. It’s up 20%, and only The Pope knows why.

In meaningful small caps news, Avita Medical (ASX:AVH) has jumped 19.3% on news it reported a 36% increase in commercial revenue (excluding BARDA revenue) to $34.1 million, compared to $25.1 million for the same period in 2021.

BARDA is the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which delivers grants and funding for research in several areas including Avita’s regenerative medical treatment for severely damaged skin.

Meanwhile, Resource Base (ASX:RBX) has added 19.2% on news that it’s set to acquire two highly prospective lithium projects in the James Bay lithium district, Québec, moving like a hipster into the coolest new suburb, a proverbial stone’s throw from Winsome Resources (ASX:WR1) and Patriot Battery Metals (ASX:PMT) in the James Bay district of Quebec.

And Meteoric Resources (ASX:MEI) is back in the news, up 12% with a lot of interest in the company this morning on the heels of an okay-looking set of assay results from its Palm Springs gold project in WA.

The bulk of the results are passing-grade at best, but they do include a tasty hit of 5m @ 19.7g/t  Au from 9m in hole MBRC016, so there’s that.

 

ASX SMALL CAP LOSERS

Here are the most-worst performing ASX small cap stocks for February 24 [intraday]:

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

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