• ASX to rise modestly at the open as Wall Street extended gains 
  • The PCE index came in line with economists’ predictions
  • Pig-butchering scams on the rise, Binance named


The ASX is poised to open slightly higher on the first day of the month as Wall Street extended gains. At 8am AEDT, the ASX 200 index futures contract was pointing up by just 2 points.

Overnight, the S&P 500 rose by +0.52%, the blue chips Dow Jones index was up by +0.12%, and tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed by +0.9%.

There was a sigh of relief as the much anticipated data release, the PCE (Personal Consumption Expenditures) Index, came in line with expectations.

The PCE, which is the Fed Reserve’s favourite inflation measure, rose by 0.3% in January, while the core PCE price index gained 0.4%.

“For markets keenly focused on when the Fed will transition towards easing rates, this report will help restore confidence that it isn’t ‘if’ the Fed will begin to cut rates in 2024, but ‘when’,” Quincy Krosby at LPL Financial told Bloomberg.

To stocks, C3.ai jumped by +25% to a six-month high as the company reported better than expected Q3 revenue and issued strong full-year guidance.

Cloud giant Snowflake plunged -18% after the company’s full-year outlook came in below expectations.

Advanced Micro Devices rose +9% to a 52-week high on the back of a bullish note from Citi analysts.

Bitcoin keeps climbing, now trading at US$61,182.


Pig-butchering on the rise

Meanwhile, data released by a finance professor at the University of Texas at Austin, John Griffin, revealed that pig-butchering scammers have likely stolen more than $75 billion from victims around the world.

A pig-butchering scam typically involves a scheme where victims are lured into into fake crypto investments. Once victims send enough funds, the scammers disappear.

“These are large criminal organized networks, and they’re operating largely unscathed,” Griffin said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Griffin said in the old days before blockchain, it would be extremely difficult to move that much cash through the financial system

“You’d have to go through banks and follow ‘know-your-customer’ procedures. Or you’d have to put cash in bags.”

“Binance is the place where they can move large amounts of money out of the system,” Griffin said.


In other markets …

Gold price rose by +044% to US$2,043.45 an ounce.

Oil prices slipped by -0.35%, with Brent now trading at US$82.02 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year US Treasury yield fell by around 1.5 basis points (bond prices higher) to 4.26%.

Iron ore futures climbed by +0.6% to US$116.70 a tonne.

The Aussie dollar lifted slightly by +0.05% to US64.97c.


5 ASX small caps to watch today

Peninsula Energy (ASX:PEN)
Peninsula announced the signing of a new sales agreement for the supply of uranium yellowcake through its wholly owned subsidiary Strata Energy Inc., operator of the Lance Projects in Wyoming, USA. The deal requires that the company sell 1.2 million pounds (Mlbs) of uranium over a six-year period starting in 2028 to the European nuclear fuel buyer Synatom. This is estimated to generate gross revenue between US$88 million and US$117 million over the term.

Wellnex (ASX:WNX)
Wellnex said it achieved trading profit in February from normal operations. Sales of Wellnex’s owned brands continue to grow, with February sales coming in at a record $1.3 million at an average margin of 41%, compared to FY23 historical margin of circa 20%. The acquisition of Pain Away has resulted in efficiencies in the business, with circa $1.5 million per annum in savings identified.

New Zealand King Salmon (ASX:NZK)
NZK says it has received the final government approval to proceed with an aquaculture project that will be a New Zealand-first, and also a world-first, in farming the King Salmon species in the open ocean. The company’s next step will be to complete an 18-month programme of rigorous benthic (seabed), seabird and marine mammal monitoring. This will provide a baseline of information, against which it can measure the impacts of a working salmon farm.

Syrah Resources (ASX:SYR)
Syrah announced a binding offtake agreement with Posco Future M Co for natural graphite fines, from Syrah’s Balama Graphite Operations in Mozambique. Key terms of the offtake agreement include: Volume of up to 2kt per month (24kt) in the year following commissioning, and from 2kt per month (24kt per annum) to 5kt per month (60kt per annum) at the option of Posco Future M from the second year to the end of the term. The whole term of the deal is for six years.

Chariot Corporation (ASX:CC9)
Chariot has expanded its Black Mountain lithium project in Wyoming by 218 contiguous claims, resulting in a 206% increase in the project tenure area. The Black Mountain project now comprises 352 claims covering 2,686ha of tenure. Chariot has also increased its ownership interests in its Wyoming Lithium Portfolio to 93.9%.


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