CLOSING BELL: Forcing the product to pay to be the product is about as Meta as it gets
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The benchmark has done a pretty passable impression of yours truly trying to do a chin-up, wobbling like a spaghetti-limed loser in place for a solid 6 hours, grunting like a pig trying to pass a kidney stone.
The end result was tons of noise, a lot of effort and very little in the way of reward – the ASX 200 is set to close flat as the market ran colder than a cashier’s smile at Coles.
That’s largely due to a really choppy bag of earnings reports, and a few “I’m not sure you’re doing this right” reactions from investors on some of the bigger names on the bourse – more on those later.
For now, though, the sector outlook has not changed much since lunchtime, so there’s still more red than green today.
Real Estate fell further to hit the bottom of the ladder on -1.1%, while Energy rallied a bit to a still awful -0.83% where it was joined by Utilities, like stocks to a burning flame, down 0.82%.
On the plus side, the bloated mess that is the Financials sector improved from +0.49% to +0.93%, to remain pretty much the only reason the benchmark’s been able to keep one nostril above the water line throughout the afternoon.
In Japan, the Nikkei is flatter than the mood in the Australian Cricket Team locker room, while the Hang Seng is up 0.81% and Shanghai is up 0.99%, but still no Bao, as the almighty Christian “Chedward” Edwards explains.
Some news today from Meta, which is sure to boost traffic to its site after the whole of Australia and New Zealand loses their minds in the way that only people on Facebook can… and that’s because the company is going to roll out an $11.95 a month ‘subscription fee’ for any users or organisations that wish to remain “verified”.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
Meta has obviously been sneaking a look at Twitter’s answer sheet – and, in precisely the same way I got done for cheating in a Year 8 German exam, Meta’s copied the wrong answers alongside the correct ones from Twitter.
NBC News reports that the subscription bundle for Instagram and Facebook, to be launched later this week, also includes extra protection against impersonation and will be priced starting at $11.99 per month on the web or $14.99 a month on Apple’s iOS system and Android.
I’m assuming that’s in US dollars, and not our comparatively puny Aussie Dollarydoos, but whatever it ends up costing, you better believe that the outrage will be long, tedious and hilariously misspelt.
Particularly when everyone’s least-stable uncle misinterprets the announcement, and we get yet another round of the “Mark Zuckeberg wants to charge you 5 cents every time you post anything on your Facebook wall”.
But, here’s hoping that by stinging their product – sorry, customers – a monthly fee to stop people from impersonating them online, Meta can add some much-needed nickels and dimes to the US$116 billion in revenue it sucked out of the universe in 2022.
Reporting season has not been kind to health insurer NIB (ASX:NHF) today – despite reporting NPAT at +12.8% to $91.6 million, with earnings per share up a similar percentage and an interim dividend jump from 11 to 13 cents per share (footy franked), investors dumped the stock today. Big time.
Mid afternoon, and NIB has tanked more than 10%, which is gonna need more than a band-aid and 3 months free physio, dental and optical.
Also having an frowny-face day is BlueScope Steel (ASX:BSL), which was down 9.5% by mid-afternoon on news that the company had, as they say in the classics, sh-t the bed.
BlueScope reported an eye-watering 64% fall in net profit after tax, and issued dire warnings that the Green Steel revolution is still a long, long way from happening, regardless of whatever PM DJ Albo is fervently wishing for.
The inimitable Josh Chiat has Bluescope’s missive to the market covered very nicely here, and it’s well worth a read.
And also also on the receiving end of some sour news, A2 Milk (ASX:A2M) – which had a belter on Friday as punters did what punters do and took a punt on the company delivering good news today.
Sadly, it appears that a lot of them may have punted their punt way off to the left to find the touch line on the full, causing this entire stupid metaphor to be called back to where it was kicked from, with an added penalty to boot.
… what I’m trying to say is that A2M gave back all of Friday’s great gains, and then some – it’s down 7.9% so far for the day.
Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks:
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Nominally top of the winner’s list – and definitely a top contender to win today’s episode of Who Wants a Speeding Ticket from the ASX? – is eCargo Holdings (ASX:ECG), which doubled in price today for absolutely no reason at all.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” cried Alice.
The company hasn’t said “boo” since October last year, and was wallowing around $0.0018 since September 2022 – but less than a week ago it spiked from $0.02 to $0.035 for no reason, before doubling today to $0.07.
Meanwhile, local global semiconductor developer BluGlass (ASX:BLG) has popped the champagne corks after receiving its first round of purchase orders for its 405nm and 420nm single-mode devices from “from leading laser original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in the quantum and industrial segments”.
That’s possibly code for super-secret anti-weather balloon weaponry manufacturers – but highly likely to be something far more mundane.
Either way, BluGlass had soared a typographically-pleasing 33.33% by lunchtime, and at the time of writing had improved to an equally aesthetic +44.44%. Top Stuff.
ExoPharm (ASX:EX1) has bounced around the +25% mark all day following a no-reason spike in interest in the company.
EX1 has been battling to find its feet since a major hiccup earlier this month saw it shed nearly 72% of its value between 7-13 of February, ahead of announcing that it’s secured $2.1 million to keep the lights on.
One of the morning’s top performers, Okapi Resources (ASX:OKR), has eased somewhat from this morning’s gains to glide onto the deck for a couple of sundowners, with an extra 17.6% in its back pocket.
Okapi came out of a trading halt this morning to announce that it successfully completed a heavily oversubscribed placement to raise $5.1 million from new and existing “high-quality institutional and sophisticated investors”.
The cash injection will allow Okapi to fund its investment in uranium enrichment technology company Ubaryon, as well as advancing the Tallahassee, Maybell and Athabasca uranium projects.
Here are the least best performing ASX small cap stocks:
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Some good news today for BlackRock investors, with the company revealing that it’s reducing fees on two of its popular core iShares ETFs – iShares Core S&P / ASX200 ETF (IOZ) to 0.05% or 5bps and iShares Core Composite Bond ETF (IAF) to 0.10% or 10bps.
Blackrock says it’s “part of its commitment to share the benefits of its scale with investors”, which is super-nice of them, really.
“This is a reduction of 44 percent and 33 percent respectively, and will see iShares have the most cost-efficient ETF options in comparable asset classes in the Australian market,” the company says.
Jason Collins, Deputy Head of Australasia, BlackRock added: ““As more Australian investors move beyond individual security selection to holistic portfolio construction, indexing core exposures can simplify how advisers and investors build their portfolios.
“The additional fee savings can also be used for broader tailoring – which may include other specific ETFs for diversification or tactical purposes, or bespoke active management or alternatives exposures.”
Meanwhile, Bastion Minerals (ASX:BMO) has dropped some late mail on the ASX this afternoon, revealing that it too has been lithium shopping in Canada, and is set to come home with a whole lotta duty free.
Bastion has entered into a Binding Heads Of Agreement (HOA) with Austek Resources for an option to acquire three highly prospective lithium properties located in Ontario, where all the cool kids are scratching around for lithium at the moment.
“The three properties are located close to known pegmatites, where adjacent companies have intersected pegmatites in drilling and have defined and reported resources,” Bastion says, adding that the property groups are referred to as Pakwan East Lithium, Raleigh Lake Lithium, and McCombe North Lithium projects.
Bastion’s Consultant Geologist, Murray Brooker, of Lithium Power International (ASX:LPI) and Allkem (ASX:AKE) fame, has been brought in to work his magic to get the projects rumbling as quickly as the company can.
And some HR news from medical cannabis developer Zelira Therapeutics (ASX:ZLD), with the announcement that Greg Blake has been promoted from VP – Global Head of Commercial and Partnering all the way up to Executive Director, effective 20 February 2023, which is today, in case you forgot.
The company says that Blake has been with them since 2020, and brings “extensive commercial and operational leadership experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors both within Australia and internationally”.
Security Matters (ASX:SMX) – Announcement by the Company in relation to the results of the SMX Shareholder and Optionholder meetings seeking to approve a merger.
Wellfully (ASX:WFL) – Capital raising.
Norwest Minerals (ASX:NWM) – Announcement concerning material exploration results.
Magnis Energy Technologies (ASX:MNS) – Announcement to the market in relation to a material transaction, the signed agreement for which was received from the counterparty over the weekend.
Tyranna Resources (ASX:TYX) – Announcement by the Company regarding its Muvero Prospect drilling results.
FYI Resources (ASX:FYI) – Announcement regarding its HPA project.
Aguia Resources (ASX:AGR) – Capital Raising.
Ingenia Communities Group (ASX:INA) – Halt requested to allow INA to review recently updated home settlement forecasts and confirm its impact on earnings guidance.