Wall Street down ahead of long weekend

Queen Elizabeth has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, but doctors say she is in good spirits with only minor symptoms.

To the markets, and the standoff between Russia and Ukraine continues to cause volatility.

On Friday, Wall Street wiped out early gains and finished in the red after confirmed reports on the evacuation of East Ukraine residents to Russia as war preparations continue to build.

Investors were also keen to sell holdings on Friday ahead of the Presidents Day long weekend.

All three major US benchmarks ended up lower – the S&P 500 by 0.72%, the Dow by 0.68%, and tech heavy Nasdaq by 1.23%.

Oil had been pulling back over the past couple of days, but a reported explosion in the separatist-held city of Donetsk in East Ukraine pushed Brent crude slightly higher to $US93.61 a barrel.

The tension has also been the primary driver behind gold’s earlier rally above the $1900 level, but it has since eased slightly to trade at US$1897.25 an ounce.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin is falling and is trading at US$38,130 at 8.30am AEDT.

The Crypto Fear & Greed Index has tipped further to the negative, so let’s check out the biggest crypto-venture funding announcements from the past seven days or so here on Coinhead.

ASX 200 to open lower on Monday

The ASX 200 index looks set to follow Wall Street lower this morning, with futures markets (March contracts) pointing down by 0.72% at 8:30am AEDT.

Last week, local shares were up 0.35% for the week despite the geopolitical concerns that gripped the market all week.

On the economics front, Wednesday’s key Q4 wages data release in Australia could be a catalyst for the RBA’s next move. The RBA has consistently said it won’t make any adjustment to monetary policy until a further pick-up in wages growth is evident.

In large caps this morning, AGL Energy (ASX:AGL) has rejected the takeover advances from a consortium led by Brookfield Asset Management that included Mike Cannon-Brookes’ Grok Ventures.

The offer, which was made on the weekend, was for $7.50, almost 5% above AGL’s Friday closing price of $7.16.

And listing later today is Omnia Metals Group (ASX:OM1). The explorer will be focused on two projects: the Ord Basin project along the WA/NT border, and the Albany-Fraser project in the state’s southwest. It raised $5.5m at 20c a share.

5 ASX small caps to watch today

Meeka Gold (ASX:MEK)
The company announced the acquisition of the Cascade Rare Earth Project, covering 2,068km2 of the Albany-Fraser Mobile Belt, an emerging province for rare earths. The project is highly prospective for rare earth deposits with existing explorers in the province already having significant exploration success.

FAR Limited (ASX:FAR)
Drilling on the main well of FAR’s offshore project, The Gambia, confirmed the presence of a prolific oil source in the area. FAR says the oil is persistent over several hundred metres, confirming key reservoirs had access to this oil-generative kitchen.

Cluey (ASX:CLU)
The edtech company reported revenue of $15.8m for the first half, an increase of 145% against the pcp. Gross profit was $8.5m, an increase of 150% on pcp.

Nuix (ASX:NXL)
The embattled data forensics company reported an NPAT loss of $2.3m, which was a 124.5% higher loss on pcp. This was on the back of $84m in revenue, which was down 1.5% on pcp.

Vectus Biosystems (ASX:VBS)
The company’s planned dosing for its Phase 1/1b trial of VB0004 to treat fibrotic liver diseases has been reviewed by the Safety Review Committee. No adverse events have been observed at any of the four doses of VB0004 studied to date, and the latest dose of 100mg has added materially to the therapeutic safety margin for VB0004.