• The ASX 200 will open higher on Thursday
  • The gathering of world central bankers in Wyoming begins today US time
  • European gas prices rise again ahead of pipeline maintenance work

Local shares are set to open higher today. At 8am AEST, the ASX 200 September futures contract is pointing up by 0.40%.

US stocks rose overnight, snapping a three-day decline ahead of Friday’s comments from Fed governor Jerome Powell who will speak at the world central bankers’ gathering in Wyoming.

All three major US stock market indices – the S&P 500, Dow Jones and Nasdaq – rose by around 0.3% each.

Minneapolis Fed Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari said the US central bank needs to push forward with a tighter monetary policy.

“So with inflation this high for me, I’m in the mode of wanting to err on making sure we’re getting inflation down, and only relax when we see compelling evidence that inflation is well on its way back down to 2%,” he said.

Cruise liner stocks were the best-performing stocks, with Norwegian Cruise and Royal Caribbean jumping by around 8% each.

Luxury department store Nordstrom plunged 20% after the company cut its full year earnings forecast by 1 per cent to a range of 5% to 7%. It comes just three months after the company raised its outlook.

Oil prices were up by 1%, with the benchmark Brent crude continuing to climb higher and trading now at US$101.81 a barrel.

The rise in oil prices have been supported by reports that OPEC+ could consider cutting output.

“While this may simply be a case of Saudi Arabia talking up the price, for now, the prospect of the group taking such action effectively removes two of the biggest downside risks for prices,” said Oanda analyst, Craig Erlam.

European gas prices rose again overnight amid ongoing nerves over Russian Gazprom’s unscheduled three-day maintenance work to Nord Stream starting on August 31.

Experts believe the renewed surge in Europe’s gas prices raises the likelihood of further widespread industrial plant closures in the Euro zone.

Bitcoin has been trading flat over the last 24 hours, and at 8am AEST, it changed hands at US$21,520.

Meanwhile, new research by Invezz has today revealed that Australia has the fifth biggest problem with debt – with household debt sitting at 203.02% of disposable income.

Invezz has analysed global data looking at several debt-related factors including credit card ownership, household debt and government debt to reveal the countries with the highest levels of debt.

Canada has the biggest overall debt problems, with a combined debt score of 8.42 out of 10, topping the table for credit card ownership.

Source: Invezz

Ahead today, detailed labour force data will be released along with counts of the number of businesses. In the US, the Jackson Hole symposium begins.

Companies to release their earnings results today include: Appen, Flight Centre, Qantas, Whitehaven and Woolworths.

5 ASX small caps to watch today

Appen (ASX:APX)
Group revenue for the first half was $182.9m, down 7% on pcp. Bottom line statutory net loss after tax was $9.4 million, compared to $6.7m profit in last year’s half. Appen expects full year revenue to be skewed to the second half, but has predicted that margins would be materially lower than last year.

City Chic Collective (ASX:CCX)
Sales revenue for the full year was $369.2m, up 39.0% on pcp. Statutory NPAT was $22.3m, up 4.7% on pcp. In FY23, City Chic says it expects to deliver another year of profitable growth notwithstanding ongoing global economic and geopolitical uncertainty.

Prospa Group (ASX:PGL)
Revenue for the full year was $178.3m, an increase of 51% on pcp. Bottom line EBITDA was $12.1m, a growth of 2,274% over the past year. In FY23, Prospa expects strong demand for credit from small business owners across all key industries in Australia and New Zealand. The company also expects additional revenue growth from a larger base of customers.

Paragon Care (ASX:PGC)
Paragon will acquire Specialist Medical Supplies (SMS) for $15.5 million. SMS is the leading supplier in Australia of biopsy and skin lesion instrumentation and other related products, as well as a urethral bulking agent used in the treatment of female stress urinary incontinence. The transaction will be funded by 20% scrip and 80% cash.

Askari Metals (ASX:AS2)
Askari has expanded its lithium portfolio through the acquisition of the Myrnas Hill Lithium Project located in the Pilbara region of WA. The project is located approximately 50km from the world-class Pilgangoora Lithium Mine (ASX:PLS). Askari will pay $125k in shares and $75k in cash.