US markets were more buoyant overnight, after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell provided some extra context around the bank’s policy tightening plans.

In testimony to Congress, Powell reiterated the Fed will end its asset purchase program in March, but stopped short of flagging a bond selldown to reduce the size of its balance sheet.

He again confirmed rate hikes are on the cards this year as part of a “long road” to normalise policy and keep inflation under control.

After a notable rise in the first week of the year (which gave equity markets the jitters), US bond yields eased back and all the major US stock indexes posted steady gains.

The S&P500 rose by 0.92% while the tech focused Nasdaq index climbed by 1.47%.

Looking at the day ahead, ASX futures are pointing higher in what may be more of a risk-on session in Wednesday trade.

Earlier this morning, BNPL leader Afterpay (ASX:APT) confirmed that the central bank of Spain — the only hangup in its proposed acquisition by Block Inc — has now given regulatory approval for the deal.

Along with equities, crypto markets also bounced in the wake of Powell’s comments, with Bitcoin trading back above US$42,000.


5 ASX small caps to watch today

Askari Metals (ASX:AS2)
The company provided an update on the second phase of reconnaissance and rock sampling at its fully-owned Horry copper-gold project in WA’s Kimberley region. The company said more copper mineralisation was visible at-surface with a strike length of over 400m, bringing the total strike length to 526m. Further exploration plans are now in the works for this coming winter, including a high-definition magnetic survey and possible maiden drilling campaign.

Compumedics (ASX:CMP)
The medtech platform, which designs devices to assist in the diagnosis of sleep disorders, provided a December trading update. The company said it booked record half-year sales revenue of $27m, up 33% from the prior year period. In a separate announcement, CMP also flagged a ~$4.2m sale to the Psychology and Behaviour Research Centre at Tianjin Normal University in China.

ECS Botanics (ASX:ECS)
The medicinal cannabis company said its December quarter results showed strong operating momentum, with expected revenues of around $1.5m — up 65% from the September quarter. The company said it’s also filling a $400,000 international order and expanding its production facilities to meet growing demand.

Genmin Ltd (ASX:GEN)
The Africa-based iron ore explorer and developer signed a third non-binding Memorandum of Understanding for potential offtake agreements of iron ore from its Baniaka project in the Republic of Gabon. The latest deal is with Jianlong Group, China’s “second largest privately owned iron and steel enterprise”, GEN said. The deal is for GEN to deliver 1.5m tonnes per annum of Fines product and 0.5Mtpa of Lump product from Baniaka for a term of two years.

Eagle Mountain (ASX:EM2)
The copper play has an existing JORC Mineral Resource estimate of 12.2Mt at its Oracle Ridge project in Arizona, but EM2 said its latest assay results continued to show “multiple thick zones of mineralisations intersected”. The additional hits offer “potential for larger scale and lower cost mining methods to be considered”, EM2 said. Recent assays will be included in the update to the JORC Mineral Resource Estimate, which is on track for completion in Q1 2022.

At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While ECS Botanics is a Stockhead advertiser, it did not sponsor this article.