ASX to rise, Brent crude at US$118

US stocks dropped on Friday after Russian soldiers captured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s biggest, in southeastern Ukraine.

Investors now expect a longer drawn-out war, believing that Kremlin would not back down until its military objectives are met despite the tightening economic noose.

On Saturday, there was more economic pain for Russians as Visa and Mastercard stopped operations in the country, rendering the credit cards issued by Russian banks useless when used overseas.

That was followed by reports that Russia may choose to use China’s UnionPay instead, once the sanctions kick in on March 9.

All three US stock market indexes fell on Friday – the S&P 500 by 0.79%, the Dow by 0.53% and tech heavy Nasdaq by 1.66%.

While the conflict took centre stage there was also an impressive US non-farm payroll report, which added 678,000 jobs in February, much better than the consensus estimate of 423,000.

The US unemployment rate also fell from 4.0% to 3.8%, while the participation rate ticked higher.

Meanwhile, Brent crude is now trading at US$118/barrel as the US is mulling over a ban on Russian oil and gas, and idea that has the backing of House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

“I’m all for that, ban it,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference.

Other commodities also rose on Friday, with gold up by 2% at US$1,970/ounce, and spot iron ore rising by 1% to US$152.28/tonne.

To cryptos, where Bitcoin has slumped to US$39,003 at 8.30am AEDT, from the US$42k it was trading at on Friday morning.

Here’s Coinhead’s roundup of the crypto market.


ASX 200 to open higher on Monday

The ASX 200 is set to open higher this morning, with the March futures pointing up by 0.70% at 8.30am AEDT.

On Friday, local shares fell 0.57% as news of the fire at Zaporizhzhia spooked the markets. ASX uranium stocks got hammered across the board on the nuclear plant news.

In large caps news this morning, AGL Energy (ASX:AGL) has rejected an upgraded offer from Mike Cannon-Brookes and Brookfield Asset Management offer of $8.25 a share, a 75 cent increase from the original $7.50 bid made a fortnight ago.

5 ASX small caps to watch today

Appen (ASX:APX)
Appen announced a minority investment in Mindtech Global, a synthetic data company specialising in the creation of high-quality training data for AI computer vision models. Mindtech is the creator of Chameleon, a self-serve platform that enables customers to create and curate vast computer vision synthetic data assets used to build accurate neural networks.

QuickFee (ASX:QFE)
QuickFee announced the completion and launch of its proprietary payments platform, QUBE, providing QFE’s merchants with a point-of-purchase check out gateway, connected to multiple back-end processors and sponsor banks. QFE also announced operating expenses for FY22 to be in the region of $20m ~ to $20.5m, with a reduction in FY23 of between $4m to $4.5m.

92 Energy (ASX:92E)
Elevated radioactivity has been intersected in the first three drill holes at the Gemini Mineralised Zone from the winter 2022 drill program. All four drill holes are associated with a strong and broad zone of clay, hematite and quartz alteration, with common fault breccias and other structures.

Mining production for February 2022 was a monthly record, having moved ~330,000 tonnes of material. GWR says the August shipment has been fixed at US$129/t, September has been secured at US$121/t, and October has been secured at US$131/t – all on FOB basis.

Arcadia Minerals (ASX:AM7)
Mineralogical test work conducted by Anzaplan on a composite sample produced during the current drilling campaign has identified the Bitterwasser clay mineral as Montmorillonite, similarly to that 
 ound in Nevada lithium clays (part of the smectite group).