It was a lacklustre session for local stocks in Tuesday trade, as the ASX 200 limped into the close with a fall of 0.77% while the microcap Emerging Companies index traded flat.

In an environment of rising bond yields, the broader tone is still risk-off, with US stock futures providing no clear direction as to what might happen on Wall Street tonight.

In Australia, markets were dragged lower by consumer stocks — from the major grocers to retail stores — as more companies report staff shortages and supply chain disruptions due to the rapid spread of Omicron.

Crypto markets drifted sideways in Asian trade, as Bitcoin and Ethereum look to hold above key support levels of US$40,000 and US$3,000 respectively.

TODAY’S BIGGEST SMALL CAP WINNERS

(Stocks highlighted in yellow rose after making announcements during the trading day).

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Investors cheered on a trading update from ~$1bn biotech Polynovo (ASX:PNV), after the medical devices company reported strong conditions at its US operations. The company increased its quantum of sales accounts in the US to 154, and monthly sales for Novosorb — its patented bioabsorbable polymer technology — rose above US$2m for the first time in December.

Cybersecurity firm Vortiv (ASX:VOR) also gained ground, after advising that its India-based subsidiary Transaction Solutions International (India) Pvt. Ltd is on track to book EBITDA of $9.5m – $10.5m in FY22. “Management have also advised that TSI has been short listed for several new ATM contracts, further announcements will be made in due course,” Vortiv said.

And lithium/gold play Essential Metals (ASX:ESS) went on a run to 30.5c, with the stock now having almost doubled since December 20 on minimal news flow. Today’s rally prompted a price query from the ASX, to which ESS responded that it wasn’t aware of any news which would prompt the surge.

TODAY’S BIGGEST SMALL CAP LOSERS

(Stocks highlighted in yellow fell after making announcements during the trading day).

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ANNOUNCEMENTS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

Semiconductor technology company Brainchip (ASX:BRN) is surging again on strong volumes, climbing to new all-time highs above $1 from the ~40c level in early October. The company — which develops semiconductor technology based on the neural pathways in the brain — was identified in research last year as one of 11 ASX ‘meme stonks’. The recent gains follow a steady run of patent updates and licensing agreements in Q4. The increased trading activity prompted a query from the ASX this morning, to which BRN said it wasn’t aware of any recent news to prompt the surge. At today’s close of $1.08, BRN shares are up more than 2,500% since March 30, 2020.

Shortly after midday EST, Mt Malcom Mines (ASX:M2M) said reverse circulation drilling had uncovered further shallow gold mineralisation at its Golden Crown project. However, shares in the company fell by more than 10% in afternoon trade to 12.5c — off M2M’s 12-month highs of almost 20c reached last year.

Explorer Orion Minerals (ASX:ORN) climbed by around 4%, after reporting assay results from the first four drill holes of its maiden drilling program at the Okiep copper project in South Africa. ORN said the results exceeded expectations. “Three holes were drilled to confirm historically reported mineralisation, returning high-grade results including 10.36m at 1.84% Cu, 5.71m at 1.93% Cu and 4.69m at 2.05% Cu,” the company said.

TRADING HALTS

The following companies went into trading halts today and are expected out in the next few days:

OZZ Resources (ASX:OZZ) — tenement acquisition

Liontown Resources (ASX:LTR) — offtake agreement

Elsight (ASX:ELS) — commercial purchase order

Zenith Minerals (ASX:ZNC) – Alliance and JV over ZNC’s lithium projects

Iris Metals (ASX:IR1) – material acquisition

Xantippe Resources (ASX:XTC) – material acquisition

Compumedics (ASX:CMP) – material contract announcement

Emerald Resources (ASX:EMR) – takeover

PVW Resources (ASX:PVW) – rare earths exploration results

Castle Minerals (ASX:CDT) – capital raising

Pacgold (ASX:PGO) – drilling results