Move over SpaceX – there’s a new player in town. From the Land of the Rising Sun comes this Tale of the Flying Hamster, thanks to a team of Japanese space and rodent enthusiasts who sent a very baffled hamster soaring into the stratosphere.

According to the Hokkaido Shimbun Press, the team from local aerial and space photography concern Iwaya Giken got the job done by … *checks notes* …  stuffing Flight Commander Hamster-san into a pressurised plastic tube, tying a really big balloon to it and letting go.

The furry final frontier explorer hurtled into the sky at an ear-popping 6.2 metres per second (sleeping most of the way, they tell us), reaching an altitude of 23,000m in about an hour, before –  and this bit is super important – being returned safely to Earth, splashing down somewhere in the sea off Miyako Island.

Flight Commander Hamster-san: Absolutely bricking it in a truly adorable fashion. Pic: Supplied by Iwaya Giken

According to the company, the end goal is a manned test flight to an altitude of 25,000m so that people can “feel outer space”.

“We will continue to carry out experiments so that people can get on board and return safely,” a spokesperson said, making no mention of how the company expects to fit a whole person into a hamster-sized tube.

International response to Japan’s most recent foray into domestically-launched space travel was swift and – for the most part – positive. Richard Gere has optioned the movie rights, and David Bowie’s head is being thawed out to write a song about it.

However, the news has not been welcomed by all quarters. North Korea’s Space Agency was reportedly spotted using hastily-constructed wooden trebuchets to hurl KimJong-Unmonauts into orbit, after the DPRK leader said the “space rodents” are “a clear and pernicious threat to our glorious nation’s sovereignty, and look delicious”.

TO MARKETS… AND BEYOND!

A quick world tour first, and Wall Street’s overnight results weren’t too shabby. The Nasdaq was way out in front with a 1.62% gain, followed by the S&P (up 0.95%) and the Dow (up 0.64%).

Asian markets also had their sights set on bigger and better things today. Shanghai climbed 0.77%, Japan’s Nikkei hitched a ride with the space hamster to gain 0.72% and Hong Kong shone brightest of the lot, up 1.2%.

Commodities continued to struggle, however, with oil falling 0.45% and gas dropping 0.51%. Gold and silver both fell ~0.18%, but copper added 0.83% because it’s special.

Australian markets look destined to end the week with a resigned and weary sigh, despite a rousing intro from Wall Street overnight and a number of king-sized moves by individual players in the lead up to lunch.

Across market sectors, it was InfoTech blazing a path forward, rocketing up ~4.0% and dragging a few hangers-on with it, including Telcos (+1.8%) and Real Estate (+1.4%).

But it was the Energy sector applying the brakes in early trade, continuing this week’s steady descent and dropping ~1.5%. The Materials sector, which has taken a sound beating most of the week, fought valiantly to break even for the morning.

The end result saw the benchmark up by a slim 0.2%. Keep climbing, big guy… we’re all rootin’ for you.

Top gainers from among the companies still stocking three-ply paper in the bathrooms this morning were Block Inc (ASX:SQ2), which jumped nearly 10.0% after Cathie Wood’s ARK Innovation fund found a few bob down the back of the couch and topped up its holding.

Latitude Group (ASX:LFS) also climbed this morning, clawing back some of the value it lost over the course of the Great Humm Fiasco of 2022. Latitude hit a low-water mark of $1.08 at close yesterday, rising to around $1.25 so far today as bargain hunters swooped in.

And finally some good news for two of this week’s Lunch Wrap perennial inclusions, Lake Resources (ASX:LKE) and Sayona Mining (ASX:SYA), which have turned things around in a remarkable fashion.

Lake Resources leapt better than 20% after a late-afternoon market update appeared to stem the tide of investors rushing the exits, and Sayona’s news of fresh lithium targets at its Mt Edon project had a similar effect to the tune of ~13.0%. Although it looks like most lithium stocks are riding the rising tide set in motion by Vulcan’s big deal with Stellantis.

There weren’t any huge scalps taken this morning, but the week isn’t ending well for Ark Mines (ASX:AHK), as the market seems to have gone completely cold on its work at Gunnawarra, with its price falling another 15%. The upside is that AHK is still well above the YTD waterline, to the tune of about 470.0%.

 

ASX SMALL CAP WINNERS

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

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Big news play of the morning is undoubtedly the aforementioned Vulcan Energy (ASX:VUL), which has gone gangbusters on the heels of a super-lucrative equity investment from automakers Fiat-Chrysler and PSA Group’s cleaner, greener vehicle JV, Stellantis.

Stellantis is tipping $76 million into Vulcan, to lock in a sizeable chunk of its future battery minerals requirements – a move that the market has shown its appreciation for by lighting a match under Vulcan’s price, which was up more than 25.0% pre-midday.

As the delightful Emma Davies pointed out yesterday, Avita Medical (ASX:AVH) has also been one to watch this week. The spray-on skin tech is edging closer to US FDA consent to expand its offerings into vitiligo and soft tissue injuries, while its price is edging closer towards a monthly high, up ~15.0%.

An announcement from LiveHire (ASX:LVH) about the signing of a Master Services Agreement with ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions – granting the locals a solid toehold in the US market – has caused a bit of a stir, sending the price up more than 35.0% to almost-break-even YTD levels. Reuben picked it – because that’s what Reuben does.

And for a little taste of some flying-under-the-radar action, local purveyors of stuff to make the the inside of your windowless van look like a Byron Bay AirBnB, Temple & Webster (ASX:TPW), has climbed off last week’s $3.20 low to reach ~$3.80, up ~10.0% this morning alone.

ASX SMALL CAP LOSERS

Here are the worst performing ASX small cap stocks for June 24 [intraday]:

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