Aussie markets got off to a reasonable start this morning, before settling into a mid-morning sag that took the benchmark all the way back to zero just as the bell for lunchtime rang.

The big news from the market this morning is an extremely tasty find from Iceni Gold (ASX:ICL), which turned up for show’n’tell this morning with a couple of ounces of gold nuggets in its pockets, which has caused something of an uproar among investors.

More on that later, of course, but first, let’s check in to see how Qatar’s doing with the FIFA World Cup, and… oh.

Already teetering on the edge of being regarded as one of the most bizarrely unpredictable events in world sporting history, a series of decisions by The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy in the lead-up to the opening match in Qatar has set the proverbial Imam amongst the immodest, causing substantial confusion among fans and observers alike.

To begin, let’s start with the host nation’s decision to create a “Fan Leader Network” – a scheme that had Qatar paying people to fly to the World Cup from around the world and attend matches for free.

It was always going to be a bold move, trying to sell busloads of – for example – Indian fellas as dyed-in-the-wool fans of, for example, Norway, on account of the fans being, for example, very visibly not even remotely Norwegian.

Plus, you know… Norway didn’t even make the World Cup this time round, so they would really stand out.

But it was an opportunity that quite a few participants gladly signed up for, packed their bags and were all set to fly out to cheer on their new favourite team – until organisers reportedly pulled the rug out from under the deal and refused to pay the supporters a per diem meant to cover the cost of food and beverages.

So… looks like quite a few of them aren’t coming. As it turns out, a goodly chunk of them were relying on that payment to survive once they arrived in Qatar, as a multi-week stay in an overseas country with nothing to eat doesn’t sound like much fun.

And that’s the option facing Jewish football fans, as well, with reports that organisers have (again, at the last minute), thrown down a ban on providing kosher food to World Cup visitors.

Organisers say that they were unable to secure the activity, so into the bin it went, alongside a ban on places of worship for Jewish fans, again due to “security fears”.

Also consigned to the scrapheap of tournament history is The Big One – a series of last minute edicts that will no doubt have Major Sponsor Budweiser wondering if it’s too late to ask FIFA for its US$75 million back.

Because – you guessed it – beer is off the menu, much to chagrin of fans in the stadium, as the vocal Ecuadorian cheer squad made abundantly clear while their team set about demolishing the host nation in the opening match of the event.

 

 

So it’s no surprise, really, that thousands of people were turned away from fan areas in the city during the concert that was held to celebrate the opening of the event, because those fan areas are pretty much the only place in town where buying and consuming alcohol is allowed.

Police reportedly had to use bullhorns and giant foam fingers to control the hoards of disappointed, beer-hungry world travellers, intent on getting their booze on without fear of being arrested for doing so.

Qatar, however, is now the proud owner of at least one World Cup record, entering the annals of footballing history as the first host country ever to lose its opening round match… so at least they’ve got that going for them.

It could have been worse as Qatar might have faced the double indignity of losing its opening match in the now-infamous Al Wakrah stadium – a venue that bears a striking resemblance to a part of the female anatomy that the host nation is notoriously not particularly keen on.

 

asx lunch wrap Iceni
“It looks like a WHAT?!?!” Pic via Getty Images.

 

Best move along to see what the markets are up to today, because that’s marginally safer than writing bad things about countries that tend to get a little tetchy.

 

TO MARKETS

The ASX opened higher this morning with a 0.3% bump. However, the excitement was short-lived, and the benchmark wobbled back to break-even before the refs blew the whistle for half-time (yeah… soccer puns ahead… it was always gonna happen).

A strong performance up front from Utilities (+1.38%) and Real Estate (+0.99%) had fans on their feet for most of the morning, but by lunchtime, it was clear that a weak defence by Materials (-1.41%), InfoTech (-0.93%) and Energy (-0.78%) was going to hold back any chance of hanging onto the benchmark’s early lead.

Tellingly, there are no Large Caps in the winners’ circle this morning. The closest we’ve got to report is Jervois Global (ASX:JRV) climbing 4.37% on no Important News.

However, Fortescue (ASX:FMG) has taken a similarly-sized tumble this morning, down 4.89%, while a couple of the larger Healthcare stocks are feeling the heat today.

Healius (ASX:HLS) has fallen 6.33% this morning, and offered up a full-throated “no comment”, after our colleagues at the Australian broke the story  yesterday that Healius has reached a deal to offload its day hospital business to Queensland Investment Corporation for more than $140m.

Meanwhile, Nanosonics (ASX:NAN) continues to take a beating this morning, down 12% so far after Friday’s AGM and CEO’s address to the company faithful, and sending chills up the spine of anyone with elderly relatives. “NAN’s had a fall” is not something that anyone wants to hear.

Let’s take a look overseas to see what’s what in the world of International Moneymaking.

 

NOT THE ASX

In the US, Wall Street closed higher on Friday by around half a per cent despite the housing market data pointing to a possible recession.

Earliest Eddy Ever reports that in October, US housing starts plummeted by 4.2% while building permits declined 2.4% – pointing both to a correction in the housing market and possibly a recession in the wider economy.

The Fed meanwhile is still united in sticking to the hawkish script, with Susan Collins noting on Friday that a 75 basis-point rate increase is still on the table as there is no clear evidence that inflation is coming down.

In Asia, the Nikkei has opened flatter than the string section of a high school orchestra, popping a miniscule +0.02 – and even that effort is starting to wane.

In Hong Kong, things are grim today with the market slumping 3.2% in early trade, while in Shanghai the slump is on there as well, but in a milder 1.2% form.

In crypto, Bitcoin is holding remarkably steady as the FTX fallout continues to pummel the broader market in the plums.

The big news is that whoever it was that “acquired” 228,523 ETH from FTX as it was thrashing about on the floor has been busy converting it all to BTC. Shifting that quantity of ETH around hasn’t done the world’s second-favourite coin much good – $268 million is a lot to move in a short time.

There is, as always, a lot more to that story – which is why Rob “So… here’s the thing…” Badman has been hard at work making sense of it all for you, over at Mooners & Shakers.

 

ASX SMALL CAP WINNERS

Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks for November 21 [intraday]:

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There is one clear winner this morning, and it’s Iceni Gold (ASX:ICL), up 110% and climbing after it uncovered a bunch of nuggety golden goodness at its Guyer project.

And they’re not talking about a few nuggets here and there. ICL says that the nugget trend runs for a few kilometres, and the rounded shape of the nuggets strongly suggests that they’ve been transported from a nearby primary source.

That’s the “mother lode” thing you hear Barry and Karen murmuring in their swags about on those badly acted Aussie gold hunter “reality” shows.

Purity of the nuggets varies, with some field testing showing a number of them at 99% gold purity – and images of 2oz of nuggets have certainly energised investors this morning as well.

Elsewhere, Jameson Resources (ASX:JAL) is on an unexplained tear this morning, climbing sharply by 38% on no news, while outside of the penny stocks, Winsome Resources (ASX:WR1) has clawed back the ground it lost on Friday, adding 14.5% as we rolled towards lunch.

 

ASX SMALL CAP LOSERS

Here are the most-worst performing ASX small cap stocks for November 21 [intraday]:

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