• ASX down, then up, then down even further to -1.4% as bank crisis looms large.
  • XEC Emerging Companies index plummets 1.8% as fear overtakes greed.
  • Goldies are making hay again, XED All Ordinaries Gold up more than 7.0%.

 

Things have been fairly brutal on the bourse today, with the benchmark sinking at open before staging a half-decent rally on the way to lunch.

But it was all for nought, apparently, with the ASX 200 falling steadily through the afternoon to rest at -1.4% when the closing bell rang.

Once again, it’s the worsening sentiment around the global banking sector doing all the damage, and – yet again – it’s the Australian Energy sector copping a hiding, down close to 3.0% today.

Except for gold, of course. Locally, investors are following a predictable pattern, pulling up stumps and headed for gold country… so much so, that the ASX XED All Ordinaries Gold index is up more than 7.0% today, putting it at +11.2% for the week.

But even that could be shortlived, according to CBA commodity analyst Vivek Dhar, who argues that while gold is a safe-haven when things get bumpy, when things really get iffy, there’s normally a dive into USD.

“Whether gold can hold on to these gains will really depend on the US dollar. The US dollar has weakened since March 10, but has been volatile,” Dhar says.

“We consider the US dollar a stronger safe-haven asset than gold. That means that if risk events are large enough we will typically see markets shift from gold to the US dollar.

“While financial stability risks have increased substantially since the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, it hasn’t yet led to a surge in the US dollar.”

Naturally, the big Financials players with known exposure to the Credit Suisse debacle are also taking flak, including Macquarie Group (ASX:MQG), which is down more than 4.5% for the day.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei is down 1.15% ahead of tomorrow’s market holiday, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is down 2.6% and Shanghai is… up!

No, really – it’s up 0.12%. Yes, I double-checked it. No, I don’t trust the numbers there, either.

 

FROM THE HEADLINES

Leaving aside the banking crisis for now – we’ve covered it everywhere else, at considerable length – there are a few quick stories in the headlines worth mentioning.

First cab off the rank is Latitude Group (ASX:LFS), which remains suspended after revealing that last week’s hack that potentially exposed 300,000 of its customers’ private data is actually a lot worse than previously reported.

“As our review deepens to include non-customer originating platforms and historical customer information, we are likely to uncover more stolen information affecting both current and past Latitude customers and applicants,” the company said.

“We will provide a further update when we have more information to share.”

Even more problematically, Latitude says that the situation “remains active”, which is as close to “this is definitely going to get worse before it gets better” as you’re likely to hear from a company in this situation.

 

ASX SMALL CAP LEADERS

Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks:

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There’s been no real change to the Small Caps leaderboard this afternoon, with the same Top Three that we had at lunchtime still filling the top spots.

Breaker Resources (ASX:BRB) has gone through the roof on news of a recommended takeover offer from top 10 Australian gold producer Ramelius (ASX:RMS), up 29.3% for the day.

Ramelius and Breaker have inked an all-scrip off-market takeover offer that will see Ramelius snap up 100% of the issued ordinary shares of Breaker, at $0.40 based on the 3-day volume weighted average price (VWAP) of Ramelius shares up to and including March 17, 2023 of $1.127. This implies a total undiluted equity value for Breaker of approximately $130.7 million.

Meanwhile, Magnetite Mines (ASX:MGT) has added 24.5% after it revealed a massive increase in its ore reserves estimate for its 100% owned Razorback Iron Ore project located in the Braemar Iron Formation in South Australia.

MGT says the ore reserves estimate has been increased to 1.6 billion tonnes, up from 473 million tonnes announced in 2021 – with scope for even more growth when the numbers come in for the company’s high-grade Iron Peak deposit later this year.

And rounding out the Top Three, Auroch Minerals (ASX:AOU) has confirmed intercepts of spodumene bearing lithium-caesium-tantalum (LCT) pegmatites at its Kangaroo Hills lithium project in Western Australia.

Assay results from the first four holes include:

  • 29m @ 1.36% Li2O from 38m (KHRC011)
  • 7m @ 1.00% Li2O from 198m (KHRC002)
  • 2m @ 1.68% Li2O from 1m (KHRC001)
  • 5m @ 0.51% Li2O from 42m (KHRC004

It’s solid news for Auroch, which has seen its trading price jump 21.7%.

 

ASX SMALL CAP LAGGARDS

Here are the least best performing ASX small cap stocks:

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LAST ORDERS

Authentication and consumer engagement solutions creator YPB Group (ASX:YPB) says that it has successfully closed the bookbuild for the $2 million placement it announced on Thursday.

The placement is a two-banger, with the first round of 202,702,702 fully paid ordinary shares at an issue price of A$0.00444 per New Share going out to professional and sophisticated investors, to rank pari passu with existing shares on issue.

The second round will be 47,747,747 New Shares at A$0.00444 a pop, subject to shareholder approval. That set will include a $500,000 commitment from executive chairman John Houston, if the shareholders are cool with it.

Additionally, investors will also be issued 450,450,449 free attaching options (exercise price A$0.005 strike, expiring 12 months from date of issue, to be determined following shareholder approval) on the basis of one free attaching option for every one share subscribed for under the placement.

Meanwhile, Empire Resources (ASX:ERL) is joining in the assay reporting rush today, with results in from Penny’s Gold Project, 50km east of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

The assays include:

  • 3m @ 0.99g/t Au from 36m in PAC23-15 (EOH)
    • including 1m @ 1.90g/t Au from 38m (EOH)
  • 24m @ 0.42g/t Au from 60m in PAC23-02
    • including 12m @ 0.68g/t Au from 64m
  • 20m @ 0.62g/t Au from 72m in PAC23-05
    • including 4m @ 0.97g/t Au from 84m

“The second round of aircore reconnaissance drilling completed at the Penny’s Gold Project in early 2023 has returned excellent gold in assay results,” the company says.

“Broad zones of gold mineralisation were encountered at the PF09 prospect where a distinct gold trend continues to develop.

“Empire remains well funded to execute further exploration activity across its project portfolio, we look forward to continuing to update the market as our exploration progresses.”

 

TRADING HALTS

Almonty Industries (ASX:AII) – It’s a private placement, a placement for money. I’ll do what you want me to do. (Eat your heart out, Tina Turner).

Askari Metals (ASX:AS2) – Strategic Investment by a global tier-1 lithium battery materials and cobalt materials supplier.

RemSense Technologies (ASX:REM) – Capital raising.

Mighty Craft (ASX:MCL) – Institutional placement.