Aussie markets opened on a bummer this morning, falling 0.3% when the doors were flung open. The benchmark recovered above flatline around lunchtime, but is easing again as the afternoon begins.

Meanwhile, Australian consumers are being urged to ditch a whole range of products that are meant to be spinach, because apparently someone made a boo-boo and the spinach on the shelves has the potential to get folks very, very high.

And – because people are sometimes a bit on the dim side – we’re all now being urged not to go out specifically looking for these particular packaged spinach products with the intent of consuming them in order to get very, very high.

The call went out from The Gubberment for everyone to check which spinach they’d bought, and bin it if it’s even remotely likely to be part of an affected batch, which reportedly all came from a “single source” – Riviera Farms in Victoria.

The knowledge of where it came from is probably scant comfort for the 130 or so people – including some extremely confused kids – who’ve rocked up to hospital complaining of everything from delirium or confusion, hallucinations, dilated pupils, rapid heartbeat, and an ability to grasp the notion that matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves.

(100% NSFW language in the link above, so pop your headphones on, kids!)

Make no mistake, though – you can bet your bottom batch of brown acid that some yobbo’s going to try it, and go from “it’s fine, man – it’s a natural, organic high” to “who are you, why are you dressed like a doctor and where the hell are my pants?” at some stage in the next few days.

But yeah… experts are warning that the as-yet-unidentified mystery space-travel spinach is most probably some kind of plant from the same family of plants as Deadly Nightshade, which should tell you that’s it’s not the kind of thing to be toyed with.

It’s probably very lucky that the contaminated batch didn’t hit shelves at the same time this week – because we imagine that spending Christmas afternoon trying to swat Grannie out of the top of the Xmas Tree with a broom because she’d overdosed on the salad doesn’t sound like very much fun at all.

Anyhoo… we’ll go take a look at how the markets are doing today, just as soon as the dragon that’s sitting on my keyboard right now decides that he’s ready to move.

 

TO MARKETS

Aussie markets opened with a pathetic Marcus Thuram-like dive this morning. However, like every single player who appeared to be mortally wounded during last night’s World Cup Final between Argentina and France, it got better pretty fast.

 

As we head towards lunch, the benchmark is making solid progress towards getting into positive territory, hitting +0.03% as I unwrapped my salami, cheese and spinach sandwiches.

Looking out across the sectors, and it’s Materials doing its best to haul the rest of the market out of the mire, throwing a 1.02% chunk of mineralised sulphides into the back of the ute and hightailing it out of town, with Energy (+0.65%) and Consumer Staples (+0.51%) riding shotgun.

Industrials (-0.87%), Health Care (-0.77%) and Real Estate (-0.62%) are doing their level best to ruin the party, so everyone should maybe just try being a bit nicer to them and hopefully they’ll cheer up and join in the fun.

There’s a brace of Hefties in the winner’s circle this morning, namely Northern Star Resources (ASX:NST) and Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN).

Northern Star’s on the rise and looking all pretty and stuff on news that it’s stumped up $753,600 for 94,200,000 fully paid ordinary shares of PolarX (ASX:PXX), which makes NST a 10% shareholder in the company.

The news pushed PXX up 29.1%, and NST up a far more modest 5.0% today.

Meanwhile, Evolution Mining is up 5.2% on no particular news, but it’s been whipsawing about like an unsecured main sheet for the past few weeks, so it’s not “unusual movement” in any sense of the phrase.

And Star Entertainment Group (ASX:SGR) can’t seem to catch a break at the moment. On top of its ongoing woes about little things like breaking a ton of laws, the usually casino-friendly NSW government has decided to switch up its poker machine tax laws.

Under the new rules, scheduled to come into effect on 1 July, 2023, casino operators in NSW will have to pay the same tax rate on poker machine income as pubs and clubs, which NSW Treasurer Matt Kean says will “raise $364 million over the next three years”.

Just to be clear, that’s Government Regulator industry jargon for “cost Star Entertainment Group $364 million over the next three years” – which is why SGR is down another 11.6% today.

 

NOT THE ASX

In the US, and it’s been rate rises softening Wall Street’s markets into fine, silk-lined beanbags, into which all three major indices sank at the end of last Friday’s session.

The Dow ended the week with a 0.85% dip, the Nasdaq fell 0.97% and the S&P slumped hardest, down 1.11%.

Peter “The Big Cheese” Farquhar reports that the US News includes a note from Goldman Sachs that it’s prepping to cut 4000 jobs “to navigate a difficult economic environment”.

And FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, currently banged up in a very unpleaseant cell in the Bahamas, has all of a sudden decided extradition to the US sounds okay after all. #BahamianRhapsody

In Asia, and Japanese markets are down 0.94% after news that the Killing Stone – said to have imprisoned the spirit of an evil fox – has struck again, this time ruthlessly murdering eight pigs.

No, really. (Warning: dead pigs).

Local Shinto priests are reportedly preparing to hold a spiritual cleansing ritual at the site, followed by a delicious BBQ.

China is seeing a surge in Covid cases since lifting its severe restrictions earlier this month, and health officials are predicting a “triple wave” of Covid infections to hit the country through winter.

That’s left investors flat on their backs in Shanghai (-0.14%), but the mood in Hong Kong is much more spry, with the Hang Seng up 1.61% so far today.

 

ASX SMALL CAP WINNERS

Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks for December 19 [intraday]:

Swipe or scroll to reveal full table. Click headings to sort:

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Topping the Small Cap ranking this morning, it’s Meteoric (ASX:MEI) on another cracking surge, backing up last week’s rocket ride with a 48.4% blast on its thrust boosters – and with nothing on the radar in terms of announcements, it’s probably safe to assume that it’s a continuation of sentiment after the company bought a monster REE project in Brazil.

Around the rest of the small cap gainers, its mostly minnows climbing with double-digit percentages because of a puff of wind or a bird looked them funny, but in the mix is Australian Pacific Coal (ASX:AQC) with a 17% climb on no news.

And to round out the Top Three, let’s go with… MMA Offshore (ASX:MRM). The energy player is up 16.2% on decent volume, because it announced this morning that it expects to deliver first half EBITDA in the range of $30-32 million, up approximately 70% on the second half of FY22. Huzzah!

 

ASX SMALL CAP LOSERS

Here are the most-worst performing ASX small cap stocks for December 19 [intraday]:

Swipe or scroll to reveal full table. Click headings to sort:

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