ASX to fall as Wall Street plunges on invasion fears

US stocks didn’t stand a chance overnight, as risk-off sentiment engulfed the market amid fears the Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent.

There were disputed reports of mortar shelling along the tense line of contact, with both sides accusing each other of escalating tensions.

All three major US benchmarks tumbled – the S&P 500 by 2.12%, the Dow Jones by 1.78%, and tech heavy Nasdaq by 2.88%.

Gold rose almost 2% amid flight to safe haven, but oil prices fell almost 3%.

Initial jobless claims in the US disappointed, unexpectedly rising by 23,000 to 248,000 for the week. The 10-year yield dropped below 2% to 1.98% as a result.

In corporate news, chipmaker Nvdia plunged 7.5% despite the company reporting record results for fiscal 2022 Q4 and full year.

To crypto news, where Bitcoin has been smashed amid the risk-off sentiment, down by 9% to trade at US$40,186 at 8.30am AEDT.

“Bitcoin is the ultimate risky asset, and a Ukraine invasion would keep crypto selling pressure going another 10-15% over the short-term,” says Oanda’s senior market analyst, Edward Moya.

“The outlook for Bitcoin remains mostly bullish but if long-term growth prospects start taking a bigger hit from aggressive Fed tightening, institutional investors might scale down their bets,” he said.

ASX 200 to open lower on Friday

The ASX 200 index looks set to follow Wall Street lower this morning, with futures markets (March contracts) pointing down by 1.1% at 8:30am AEDT.

Yesterday, local shares managed to finish higher (just) by 0.16%, despite reports of the mortar shelling late in the trading session.

In large cap news this morning, insurance giant QBE (ASX:QBE) has swung from a $1.52 bil loss in 2020 to a $750 million profit in 2021, as a result of premium growth.

5 ASX small caps to watch today

Pental Ltd (ASX:PTL)
The household product maker delivered underlying net profit after tax (NPAT) growth of 82.5% (on pcp) to $5.27 million for the first half. Pental has now lifted ts full year FY22 underlying EBIT forecast to the range of $10.5m to $11m – an increase in the range of 28.9% to 35%.

Ensurance Ltd (ASX:ENA)
The insurance company reported a 48.6% increase (on pcp) in revenues to $3.6m for the first half. Profit was up 185% (on pcp) to $260,000.

First Graphene (ASX:FGR)
The company has been awarded a UK Government grant to develop high performance graphene-enhanced cement as part of a consortium. The GPB 190k grant was awarded by the government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, and was secured by the consortium which is led by First Graphene.

Smartgroup (ASX:SIQ)
The employee management services provider recorded a full year revenue in FY21 of $221.8 million, up 3% on pcp. Operating EBITDA was $103m, up 8% on pcp.

Native Mineral Resources (ASX:NMR)
Native has been awarded $200,000 as part of the Queensland Governments highly competitive Collaborative Exploration Initiative (CEI) grants program. Funding will contribute towards the acquisition of a 30,349 line-kilometre fixed wing magnetics and radiometrics survey.