Good morning everyone, and welcome to Tuesday, 19 December – a date on the calendar worth remembering as it was on this day in 1843 that Charles Dickens’ unforgettable A Christmas Carol, was first published.

It tells the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, a fella who was (allegedly) such a miserable old bastard, that no less than four ghosts visited him in an attempt to teach him that he should pay his accountant, Bob Cratchit, more money.

Now, there have been many attempts to try to figure out how the apparently miserly 15 shillings per week Cratchit was taking home compared to a modern day’s pay – most of them so riddled with holes and vague assumptions about things like “purchasing power”, “adjusted for inflation” and the dreaded “cost of living differences between 1840s England and modern times”, that an actual comparison is hard to find.

But one thing we do know is that 15 shillings a week was actually pretty good money, based on the knowledge that the average wage among agricultural labourers in Herefordshire was seven to nine shillings per week (“The Manufacture and Provision of Rural Garments, 1800-1850: A case study of Herefordshire and Worcestershire”, by Alison Toplis, Textile History (2009, vol. 40, no. 2), p. 153).

Also, just 10 years earlier in the 1830s, female workers in the Essex textile industry were bringing home three to seven shillings per week, while children might get as little as one shilling sixpence or two shillings (Women, Work, and Wages in England, 1600-1850, “A ‘humbler, industrious class of female’: Women’s Employment and Industry in the Small Towns of Southern England, 1790-1840”, Neil Raven, p. 176).

So Bob was, actually, doing pretty well, considering his job as a bookkeeper comparatively held about 99% less physical danger or demand than workers who were earning significantly less during the same period.

Which brings into question whether old Scrooge actually deserved to have four ghosts turn up and ruin his Christmas at all… or – plot twist – whether it was just a ploy by his bookkeeper to extort more money from him.

While the story makes no mention of the Cratchit family’s connection to the occult practices of summoning spirits from beyond the grave to do their new master’s bidding, the fact remains that any connection there is rather startling in its omission.

Which belies the current belief that A Christmas Carol should be some sort of cautionary tale about the subjugation of the working class in 1840s England – especially considering that by any reasonable metric, if the story were to be even remotely true, just about every CEO the world over would be finding themselves bombarded to the point of ghostly overcrowding every Christmas.

That’s especially given the eye-watering levels of wealth disparity between – picking an example at random – Amazon warehouse workers, and that grimacing, wrinkly turtle who used to own the company, who now divides his time between riding dick-shaped rockets into space and partying with the kind of sentient leather handbags that haunt the LA and New York party scenes.

Anyway… despite gruesome warnings of spirits turning up to bitch and moan about money, the team here at Stockhead has been busy pulling together some somewhat less-apocryphal stories for this morning, including Reuben’s regular wrap of what’s happening on the Canadian lithium scene, and Peter Strachan’s deep dive into gas stocks riding high into 2024.

Plus, you’ll find all the usual digits and data to get your motor rumbling before the market opens today, down below.

 

COMMODITY/FOREX/CRYPTO MARKET PRICES

Gold: US$2,022.43 (-0.20%)

Silver: US$23.93 (+0.38%)

Nickel (3mth): US$16,7738.40/t (+1.61%)

Copper (3mth): US$8,470.60/t (+0.11%)

Oil (WTI): US$71.72 (-0.10%)

Oil (Brent): US$76.87 (-0.10%)

Iron 62pc Fe: US$135.08/t (-0.10%)

AUD/USD: 0.6712 (+0.21%)

Bitcoin: US$41,113.00 (-0.72%)

 

WHAT GOT YOU TALKING

Plenty of you tuned in to hear @_FutureMetals‘ Patrick Walta discuss with @StockheadAU the results of a scoping study, the PGM market and how the Panton deposit compares to other development stage PGM projects. If you missed it, here’s a link:

 

YESTERDAY’S ASX SMALL CAP LEADERS

Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks:

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

Wordpress Table Plugin

 

Yesterday’s winningest stocks included:

Sultan Resources (ASX:SLZ) was the market leader yesterday morning, presumably off the back of last week’s announcement that it submitted a programme of works to facilitate drilling to test the Calesi magmatic nickel prospect, which is the subject of a farm-in agreement with Rio Tinto Exploration (RTX), a subsidiary of Rio Tinto.

The news last week confirmed that pursuant to the agreement, RTX has now formally elected to farm-in to E70/5082, which forms part of Sultan’s broader Kondinin-Lake Grace exploration project, with a right to earn an 80% interest by sole funding $2m of exploration within five years.

Mt Malcolm Mines (ASX:M2M) also moved nicely on news that the company had reported visual confirmation of the presence of pegmatite in historic drill spoil following an on-ground inspection of the company’s Lake Johnston Project’s tenure.

M2M intends to prioritise and carry out several staged exploration programs targeting lithium and rare earth mineralisation, the company says, with follow up geological mapping, additional sampling of historical drill spoil, rock chip sampling and sampling any outcropping pegmatites planned as a follow up evaluation.

HeraMED (ASX:HMD) moved the needle about 25% on news that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with FemBridge, a leading innovator in maternal healthcare solutions, based in Winfield, West Virginia.

The MoU will see the companies collaborate on the development of a scalable, seamless, and comprehensive maternity care solution, building on previous work that saw FemBridge engaged by HeraMED as an out-sourced business development function.

And there were some big movers among the large caps on Monday, including a late charge by Tabcorp Holdings (ASX:TAH) on news that it has been awarded the new Victorian Wagering and Betting Licence by the Victorian Government, which is an exclusive licence for a period of 20 years, commencing in August 2024.

The key points of the announcement include that the new licence features modernised terms, “creating a level playing field in Victoria for taxes and fees and enhancing Tabcorp’s ongoing competitiveness”, and comes with no racing industry joint venture or obligations.

Neuren Pharmaceuticals (ASX:NEU) dropped some really good news, announcing that there’s been a stack of highly positive results from the Phase-2 clinical trial of its drug NNZ-2591 in children with Phelan-McDermid syndrome.

The open label Phase 2 trial in children aged three to 12 years was conducted at four hospitals in the US and with primary endpoints safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics and efficacy over 13 weeks of treatment with NNZ-2591.

Adbri (ASX:ABC) soared after the company revealed it had received a non-binding indicative takeover proposal from CRH and the Barro Group at a price of $3.20 cash per share, a 41% premium to last close.

 

YESTERDAY’S ASX SMALL CAP LAGGARDS

Here are the worst performing ASX small cap stocks:

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

Wordpress Table Plugin

 

TRADING HALTS

Syntara (ASX:SNT) – pending an announcement to the market in relation to the outcome of a capital raising.

First Lithium (ASX:FL1) – pending an announcement regarding material assay results.

Sarytogan Graphite (ASX:SGA) – the company has received material spheroidisation results and needs time to process the results for release to the market.

Azure Minerals (ASX:AZS) – ending the release of an announcement regarding a material update to the current change of control transaction.

MTM Critical Metals (ASX:MTM) – pending an announcement regarding a potential material acquisition.