ASX Small Caps Lunch Wrap: Who else is really struggling with that sinking feeling today?
Local markets are down – like, a lot – and sinking fast today after a 0.5% plunge at open that has continued through to lunch time, leaving the ASX lower by more than 1.5%.
That’s largely being attributed to further falls on Wall Street overnight – the reasons for which I’ll get to later, but for anyone who’s too impatient to read past here, the key words are “inflation”, “rates” and “Jerome Powell”.
But first to the news story that has the whole world holding its breath today. The submersible that’s gone missing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, with just over $2.5 billion worth of Very Rich People on board.
The five passengers include billionaires Hamish Harding and Paul-Henry Nargeolet, and a father-son team from a “prominent” Pakistani business family, Shahzada and Suleman Dawood.
And then there’s Stockton Rush, The Man with the Can – owner of OceanGate Expeditions and the apparent big brain behind the company’s ill-fated Titan submersible, which is, at the time of writing, creeping ever closer to being reclassified as a tomb for all those on board.
It’s headline news literally everywhere, so I’m not going to rehash the whole sorry story… just the bits of it behind a growing sentiment that this is becoming less of a terrible tragedy, and more of another egregious example of rich people dying in needlessly reckless ways.
For starters, there have been some enormously unsettling reports about the submersible itself, some of which almost beggar belief.
The roughly 3m x 7.5m submersible – which looks like a pinched-off Magic White Dog Turd with a bubble on the front – might not have been quite as seaworthy as its owner had suggested it was before it went missing.
For starters, when we’re talking depths of 4,000m below sea level – which is where the wreck of the Titanic is usually found – the pressure exerted on everything is catastrophically high.
The maths behind it is very complex (for me, anyway…) but at that depth we’re talking about 5850 pounds per square inch (psi), which rounds out to a breathtakingly high 411kg per square centimetre of pressure
Which is fine, provided you’re in something built to handle that sort of pressure, or you’re a sperm whale.
However, since our five intrepid ambulatory bags of money are clearly not the sort of whales that regularly dive to the lowest extremes of the bathypelagic (it’s Greek for Cripplingly Deep Bath or something) zone, it’s probably safe to say that they’d fall into the former of those two categories.
So details that have come to light about the vessel itself are making that assumption a tad questionable, leading to suggestions that a catastrophic hull breach might have taken place.
At that depth, in that sort of high-pressure environment, the submersible would be crushed into a singularity in about 40 milliseconds – literally less than a blink of an eye, which generally last between 100-150ms.
Which is arguably better than the alternative, which is being stuck in the vessel until all the oxygen on board runs out. That’s due to happen around 7pm, whether it’s deep underwater or on the surface.
Former OceanGate director of marine operations, David Lochridge, said in a lawsuit he was fired in 2018 for raising safety concerns about the submersible’s ability to dive to such depths.
Per the lawsuit: “Lochridge learned that the viewport manufacturer would only certify to a depth of 1,300 metres due to experimental design of the viewport supplied by OceanGate, which was out of the Pressure Vessels for Human Occupancy (‘PVHO’) standards.”
“OceanGate refused to pay for the manufacturer to build a viewport that would meet the required depth of 4,000 metres.”
So there’s a window rated for depths up to (or down to, I guess) 1,300m, which is a scant 2,700m shy of requirements, to contend with.
Added to that is the laughably basic control system on the vessel. It’s operated, via Bluetooth, using an elderly Logitech knock-off PlayStation controller which, as someone who’s owned a few of them over the years, are about as reliable as Ronald Reagan’s memory.
The list of issues with the whole thing just keep stacking up – but beyond that, the story keeps getting more bizarre still.
The wife of the pilot of the vehicle is, according to the New York Times, a descendant of two people who died on board the original Titanic disaster.
Wendy Rush, the wife of Stockton Rush, the OceanGate CEO piloting the submersible that disappeared during a dive to the Titanic wreckage, is a descendant of two first-class passengers who died when the ocean liner sank in 1912, archival records show. https://t.co/6n3DpYocd0
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 22, 2023
And the stepson of billionaire Hamish Harding – a charming young man who was recently thrown in jail for allegedly stalking female musicians and making terrorist threats about shooting up a music festival – took to social media to show he was coping with his step-dad’s predicament by posing with a huge grin on his face next to a merch tent at a Blink-182 concert.
It’s likely to go down in history as one of the most bizarre news stories of all time. The only thing missing at the moment is Tesla boss Elon Musk weighing in on the yarn, offering to build a submersible CyberTruck and packing it full of Filipino soccer kids to rescue the missing crew.
Probably best to leave this story there for now – but before you flood me with emails about this being in poor taste or asking “how could you possibly sink so low?“, I’d say that there’s a handful of people more qualified to answer that question than I am.
Local markets are in trouble today, down more than 1.5% at lunchtime and every sector with the needle in the red.
The worst of the damage is being dealt by InfoTech, which is absolutely bricking it, down 3.6% in less than three hours thanks to big players like Megaport (ASX:MP1) and Xero (ASX:XRO) shedding 5.8% and 4.1% respectively.
Real Estate’s down 2.89%, the Telcos are down close to 2.0% and Materials is taking another kicking at -1.6%.
The closest we’ve got to a Big Player doing well this morning is $500m market capper Latin Resources Limited (ASX:LRS), up 7.0% (and climbing) off the back of yesterday’s news of a 241% mineral resource boost at its Colina project, which now boasts a JORC compliant 45.2Mt @ 1.34% Li2O, including 30.2Mt @ 1.4% Li2O Measured + Indicated.
In the US overnight, the major indices all finished the session lower. The S&P fell 0.52%, the Dow dropped 0.3% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 1.21% as inflation woes and rate rises dominated market mumblings again.
It’s hardly surprising, considering Jerome Powell has appeared before Congress to open the Bad News hole on the front of his head again, telling America’s lawmakers that more interest rate increases are likely ahead as inflation is “well above” where it should be.
“The process of getting inflation back down to 2 per cent has a long way to go,” said Powell. “It will take time for the full effects of monetary restraint to be realised, especially on inflation.”
Translation: We’re all boned.
In stock news, Tesla fell more than 5%, while AI stocks such as Microsoft and Nvidia were also down more than 1%, Earlybird Eddy reports, while chipmakers AMD dropped 5.7% and Intel shed 6.0%.
On top of that news from the US, UK inflation data came in a lot worse than expected overnight, sparking a solid – and very British – round of Keep Calm and Panic that sent the FTSE down 0.3%.
In Japan, the Nikkei is dead-flat at the time of writing, despite the country’s population losing their collective minds over a PR stunt by Georgian ambassador Teimuraz Lezhava that has set the Pikachus among the Hello Kitties overnight.
The normally mild-mannered and completely even-tempered social media users of Japan went berserk when Lazhava had a crack at being an “everyman” kinda guy, riding the Tokyo subway in civilians clothes to prove that he’s “just an ordinary guy”.
— ティムラズ・レジャバ駐日ジョージア大使 (@TeimurazLezhava) June 18, 2023
The problem, though, is that he’s sitting in the priority passenger seats, usually reserved for people who are elderly, pregnant or disabled (and, in very rare cases, all three) – a colossal social faux pas which, if not contained, will almost definitely see the two nations at war within days.
In China, Shanghai markets are falling hard, down 1.31% while in Hong Kong the Hang Seng is 1.98% lower as well.
Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks for June 22 [intraday]:
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It’s not all doom and gloom on the ASX, though, as the Small Caps winners table shows.
Up top, it’s fleet and safety management company Eroad (ASX:ERD) on +69.5%, on news that it’s received an unsolicited, non-binding indicative proposal from Brillian APAC Pty Ltd, part of the Volaris Group.
The Volaris Group is an operating group of Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Constellation Software Inc (TSX:CSU).
The proposal on the table is for 100% of ERD at $1.30 per share, well above its $1.13 open this morning – and at present, even with the 69.5% jump, it’s sitting below the offer price on $1.17 a pop.
In second place is Estrella Resources (ASX:ESR), up 57.1% this morning on news that the company has signed an agreement with Canadian-based geophysical firm Expert Geophysics to commence a world-first helicopter-borne electromagnetic survey (TargetEM) at the company’s Carr Boyd nickel-copper-PGE project, approximately 80km NNW of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.
And in third place, it’s Errawarra Resources (ASX:ERW), up 37.9% this morning on no news, but apparently restarting its recent climb that has seen it gain 150% for the month, despite a hiccup that knocked some of the gloss off over the past couple of days.
Here are the most-worst performing ASX small cap stocks for June 22 [intraday]:
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