ASX up 0.3pct but lithium miners hammered

·4-min read

The Australian share market has ended modestly higher despite huge drops for lithium miners and electricity supplier Origin Energy.

After sinking slightly into negative territory in the early afternoon, the S&P/ASX200 index staged a late comeback to finish Wednesday up 22.8 points, or 0.32 per cent, to 7,234. The broader All Ordinaries closed 7.7 points higher at 7,462.9, a gain of 0.1 per cent.

"We finished with a bit of a flourish, pushed back into positive territory, which was great," said Australian Stock Report senior market analyst Ben Le Brun.

Mr Le Brun said the story of the day was the carnage in the lithium sector, which had been enjoying a strong year on demand from electric vehicle producers like Tesla Motors.

"Market darling" Pilbara Minerals plunged 22.0 per cent to a six-month low of $2.60, Allkem dropped by 15.4 per cent, Core Lithium was down 20.4 per cent and Liontown Resources fell 19.8 per cent.

"Some big moves, and some big drops," Mr Le Brun said. "It is a bit of a crowded trade, and very very popular, especially in the retail end of the market."

A research note from Goldman Sachs warning of a "sharp correction" in the price of lithium was being blamed for the rout, although Argentina setting a "reference price" for lithium exports and Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer BYD Co being in talks to buy six lithium mines in Africa could also be factors.

Meanwhile, Origin Energy had fallen 13.7 per cent to a two-month low of $5.91 after withdrawing guidance for fiscal 2023, saying coalminers had been unable to supply Origin's Eraring Power Station on the shore of Lake Macquarie in NSW with enough coal to operate normally.

"The recent material under-delivery of coal to Eraring results in lower output from the plant, additional replacement coal purchases at significantly higher prices, and is being exacerbated by coal delivery constraints via rail," Origin said.

Eraring is Australia's biggest power station, and the under-delivery of coal meant Origin had to buy electricity at elevated prices on the spot market to meet customer demand.

"There is currently extreme volatility across commodity markets, driven by a combination of global energy supply and security concerns, exacerbated by the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with subsequent unprecedented increases in international energy prices including coal, gas and oil," Origin said.

Overall, seven of the ASX's 11 sectors were higher, with telecom gaining the most, 1.8 per cent, as Telstra climbed 3.1 per cent to $4.

Back in the material sector, goldminers were also lower, with Evolution down 3.9 per cent and Newcrest and Northern Star both falling by around two and a half per cent.

Base metals miners were also lower, while Boss Energy had fallen 6.2 per cent after making a final decision to restart production at its Honeymoon uranium mine in South Australia.

But the big iron ore miners had posted gains. BHP rose 2.3 per cent to $45.65, Fortescue was up 3.2 per cent to $20.76, and Rio Tinto was up 0.4 per cent to $114.91.

Woodside Energy was up 1.4 per cent to $30.19 after completing its merger with BHP's petroleum business.

The big banks were all higher, with Commonwealth climbing 2.3 per cent to $106.71, ANZ up 1.1 per cent to $25.31, Westpac advancing 1.0 per cent to $24.10 and NAB gaining 0.9 per cent to $31.55.

The Australian dollar was buying 71.83 US cents, from 71.85 US cents at Tuesday's close.

ON THE ASX:

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Wednesday up 22.8 points, or 0.32 per cent, to 7,234.0

The All Ordinaries index closed up 7.7 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 7,462.9.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT:

One Australian dollar buys:

71.83 US cents, from 71.85 US cents when the ASX closed on Tuesday.

92.98 Japanese yen, from 91.94 yen.

66.94 Euro cents, from 66.89 cents.

56.98 British pence, from 56.97 pence.

110.46 NZ cents, from 109.89NZ cents.

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