The S&P/ASX200 pared earlier losses to finish ~0.2% lower.

Wall Street lifted, but my word  — those gains were undermined by an after market bombshell from Facebook’s weird parent company, Meta ($FB), which slumped after totally disrespecting analyst expectations.

Block Inc (ASX:SQ2) adopted Aussie child Paypal Holdings (PYPL -24.6%) lost a quarter of its market cap overnight after revealing new users this year are going to come up short – by two full thirds on last year.

The news sent our IT sector into panic mode — Block Inc (ASX:SQ2) was down 10%, Wisetech Global (ASX:WTC) down 7.8%, Xero (ASX:XRO) down 5.3% and – wait for it – Zip Co (ASX:Z1P) down 9.5%.

Surplus to trade

Elsewhere, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) says the national trade surplus narrowed to $8.4bn in December as imports rose strongly in the Christmas run up.

It’s a hit for the recovery and well below economists’ near $10bn estimate. CBA’s senior economist Kristina Clifton said while her team has net exports making a 0.5ppt hole in Q4 GDP, “we have (a) low conviction on this figure,” thanks to the uncertainty and general turbulence around export price movements.

Housing, labour shortages, supply constraints… miners

The ABS has building approvals up by 8.2% (economists were expecting a 1% fall) driven by a hefty 27.5% lift in private multi‑units approvals.

CBA says there’s still a large amount of residential work in the pipeline, but momentum is slowing for houses – there’s labour shortages and supply constraints to overcome.

AMP’s senior economist Diana Mousina notes the bump follows a decent lift in November, and yet…

“Approvals are still down on a year ago (by 7.5%) which reflects declining demand after the expiration of the HomeBuilder grant that lifted approvals demand over 2020/21.”

That don’t bother the materials sector none

Stockhead’s material witness, Sam Jacobs notes, “in line with the broader market trend so far this year, ASX commodities stocks are one of the few bright spots for local investors.”

It’s those iron ore majors helping to push the ASX 200 ahead  of the small end of town, as the microcaps Emerging Companies index fell by +1.5%.

And on a day where Rabobank’s latest outlook for Aussie agriculture is just (paraphrasing here) bloody amazing, the $1.8bn fertilizer maker Nufarm (ASX:NUF) is up over 15%, flagging a lift in quarterly revenues as the “outlook for soft commodity prices remains positive, driving increased plantings”. Ie: bloody amazing.

And, hello, it looks a lot like the Canadian Co. hunters at Brookfields are about to acquire Ausnet Services (ASX:NET).

The Supreme Court of NSW has approved the $17.8 billion takeover of AusNet (ASX:AST)  which expects to lodge a copy of the court orders with Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) tomorrow, at which time the scheme will become legally effective and shares will be suspended from the ASX at the close of trade.

TODAY’S BIGGEST SMALL CAP WINNERS

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

Scroll or swipe to reveal table. Click headings to sort.

Code Company Price % Volume
WOO Wooboard Tech Ltd 0.002 100.0% 623,379
SRN Surefire Rescs NL 0.015 36.4% 32,567,596
XST Xstate Resources 0.004 33.3% 14,894,784
ICN Icon Energy Limited 0.014 27.3% 314,555
BNZ Benzmining 0.71 25.7% 1,073,855
CCE Carnegie Cln Energy 0.0025 25.0% 32,437,198
YPB YPB Group Ltd 0.0025 25.0% 700,000
NUF Nufarm Limited 5.58 20.0% 7,382,477
EVZ EVZ Limited 0.155 19.2% 66,563
TBA Tombola Gold Ltd 0.032 18.5% 2,871,947
PRM Prominence Energy 0.013 18.2% 10,559,960
KGD Kula Gold Limited 0.049 16.7% 24,307,446
X2M X2M Connect Limited 0.175 16.7% 142,171
ARE Argonaut Resources 0.0035 16.7% 8,726,120
CT1 Constellation Tech 0.007 16.7% 1,270,781
GLV Global Oil & Gas 0.028 16.7% 19,492,127
PCL Pancontinental Energ 0.0035 16.7% 24,706,492
LAW Lawfinance Ltd 0.65 16.1% 11,070
JXT Jaxstaltd 0.045 15.4% 1,177,454
ADY Admiralty Resources. 0.016 14.3% 437,024
AO1 Assetowl Limited 0.004 14.3% 3,220,260
AXP AXP Energy Ltd 0.008 14.3% 5,318,568
CAD Caeneus Minerals 0.008 14.3% 19,244,391
NZS New Zealand Coastal 0.008 14.3% 1,223,227
DEX Duke Exploration 0.16 14.3% 282,020

Resources and energy stocks have taken the wheel on Thursday, Benz Mining (ASX:BNZ) streaking ahead after striking, “high grade lithium mineralisation identified over a large outcropping area” in Quebec.

Shares are rising – up some 15% in late trade – for Torian Resources (ASX:TNR), the explorer reporting there’s been a few more high-grade gold strikes over in its prospective Mt Stirling project in WA.

Prominence Energy (ASX:PRM) reports Western Gas has now received acceptance for its Well Operations Management Plan, PRM calling it “a major milestone for the project,” and the last major approval ahead of drill time.

Prominence has access to a 12.5% interest in the project.

X2M Connect (ASX:X2M) says Q2 revenues are up over 31%. Certainly the stock is up over 16% on Thursday  – according to the brilliant financial journalist, but now dead to us all Nick Sundich (we miss you, Nick) X2M, is an IoT (Internet of Things) company, which monitors and controls smart devices in the gas, water and electricity sectors.

In general terms digital utilities, (“smart devices”), such as X2M’s can be remotely controlled remotely or sometimes even act in their own right using sweet, but deadly Artificial Intelligence.

TODAY’S BIGGEST SMALL CAP LOSERS

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

Scroll or swipe to reveal table. Click headings to sort.

Code Company Price % Volume
NPM Newpeak Metals 0.001 -33.3% 1,578,139
ANL Amani Gold Ltd 0.0015 -25.0% 39,991,892
RAB Adrabbit Limited 0.033 -23.3% 936,165
CTT Cettire 2.38 -21.2% 6,812,317
OEX Oilex Ltd 0.004 -20.0% 2,044,118
SCT Scout Security Ltd 0.038 -15.6% 1,169,590
ATU Atrum Coal Ltd 0.022 -15.4% 1,650,424
TKM Trek Metals Ltd 0.075 -15.3% 1,612,317
RFR Rafaella Resources 0.073 -15.1% 6,539,101
HMI Hiremii 0.053 -14.5% 2,348,342
ARO Astro Resources NL 0.006 -14.3% 2,025,168
NVX Novonix Limited 6.63 -13.9% 6,572,229
WIA WIA Gold Limited 0.069 -13.8% 608,543
AHI Adv Human Imag Ltd 0.41 -13.7% 1,497,206
WC8 Wildcat Resources 0.033 -13.2% 2,336,878
CRR Critical Resources 0.1 -13.0% 8,542,771
AEF Australian Ethical 8.64 -13.0% 520,475
DMM Dmcmininglimited 0.135 -12.9% 66,902
STP Step One Limited 1.32 -12.9% 502,809
MRL Mayur Resources Ltd 0.205 -12.8% 36,915
CHR Charger Metals 0.785 -12.3% 711,308
LIO Lion Energy Limited 0.05 -12.3% 1,607,507
M3M M3Mininglimited 0.395 -12.2% 433,195
AV1 Adveritas Ltd 0.11 -12.0% 206,907

Shares in ecommerce retailer Cettire (ASX:CTT), shed 20% on the fly this morning after the company seemingly botched its entire game plan.

The half from hell went a bit like this:

NPAT down about 450%, from $2.3m in H121 to a loss of $8.3m in the six months to December.

Even worse – EBITDA – from $4.8m, to a loss of $9.9m. Gross revenue surged 192%, sales revenue also very surgey up 180%.

These guys pumped a bit into advertising and marketing from around $3.9m in H1 FY21 to $26m. That’s hurt everything.

ANNOUNCEMENTS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

Medical device company OncoSil Medical (ASX:OSL) surged as high as 25%, after its device was granted a “Positive Status 1” classification in Germany. Our own Eddy Sunarto says the classification was granted by the German institute for the Hospital Remuneration System (InEK), which has now put the OncoSil device under its innovation funding (NUB) program.

Gas-flow products maker Pivotal Systems (ASX:PVS) has announced a $14.8 million capital raise with the company’s broker MA Moelis, opening the one-for-4.24 non-renounceable entitlement offer at 49 cents a share today.

The offer has been priced at a 25.2% discount to the last close and a 21.4% discount to the theoretical ex-rights price and has been partially underwritten by major shareholders Anzu Partners and Viburnum Funds.

Proceeds from the equity raise will be used to accelerate Pivotal’s growth initiatives, provide incremental working capital, and cover costs of the offer.

Making semiconductors requires precise flows of gas to shape the underlying wafer on which the circuits are built. The semiconductor industry, which is experiencing a global shortage right now, is tipped to be worth  $1 trillion by 2030.

Shares in explorer Quantum Graphite (ASX:QGL) rose ~4.44% to 0.24 cents today after the company announced its joint venture partner Sunlands Co had received a patent for its thermal battery in South Africa.

It is the first patent granted for Sunland’s technology, which is the subject of an international patent application filed in November 2017 under the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Patent Cooperation Treaty covering 155 countries.

Quantum said the joint venture with Sunlands cements its participation in long duration energy storage technology, which is seen as critical to the decarbonisation of the global energy sector.

And finally, Epichem CEO Colin La Galia has quit to pursue other opportunities with his last day scheduled for March 23.  Epichem provides synthetic and medicinal chemistry services and is the subsidiary of clinical stage biotechnology company PharmAust (ASX:PAA).

La Galia and PharmAust have agreed he will continue to provide strategic and operational input into the business beyond his resignation date. PharmAust have started a search for a new General Manager and business development manager.

TRADING HALTS

The following companies went into trading halts on Thursday and are expected to exit in the coming days.

Javelin Minerals (ASX:JAV) – capital raising

Laneway Resources (ASX:LNY) – proposed acquisition of gold assets

Comms Group (ASX:CCG) – acquisition