Retail On Sale As ASX Falls In February
February wasn’t a month to write home about for Australian investors with the renewed volatility on Wall Street overshadowing the December 31 reporting season.
That season turned out to be better than expected with more companies lifting profits and dividends, but that had no impact on the market as the ASX 200 fell 0.4% in February (ending on 6016 on Wednesday). That left the index down 0.8% for the year to date.
As we saw with Harvey Norman and its 12.5% slump yesterday (the biggest in 30 years) retailing took a pounding. Myer shares fell 31.3% and Super Retail lost 22.4%, Harvey Norman shed more than 11% after Wednesday’s slide and rival JB Hi Fi dropped more than 11% as well.
Woolies shares added 2.4% but Wesfarmers shares lost double that at 5.6% after confirming the disaster that is its expansion into the UK. A surprise performer though was The Reject Shop whose shares jumped more than 13%, making it one of the best performers in the sector. Other consumer-sector stocks that performed poorly over the reporting season month included vitamin maker Blackmores, which shed 17.3%, and pizza group, Domino’s, which lost 17.9%.
But Coca Cola Amatil shares rose nearly 4% as investors once again believed the company’s claims about how it is going to end years of underperformance in the key Australian market.
There were some consumer-sector standouts on the upside as well, however, with NZ-based dairy producer A2 Milk soaring 47.5%, while Bellamy’s saw a solid 21.6% gain.
Several travel firms saw some good gains over the month as well, with Corporate Travel shares jumping by a quarter, Flight Centre by 13% and Webjet by 16%, making the sector one of the best performed, along with the dairying segment.
Financials took a bashing with the Commonwealth Bank losing 3%, the ANZ, 1.1% and Westpac lost 0.6%. the National Australia Bank however enjoyed a 3.6% rise. Asset manager Platinum, which revealed that its CEO Kerr Neilson would step down in the coming months, lost 23%. AMP shares rose 0.7%.
Resources were mixed - BHP shares rose 1% and Rio shares were up 5.6%, while OZ Minerals shares rose by just over 3%. Woodside shares lost nearly 12%, but that was more due to the $2.5 billion fund raising in the month than the full year results.
Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.
At the AFR he was a finance writer, Finance Editor, News Editor and Chief of Staff. At the Nine Network he was supervising producer of Business Sunday for more than 16 years. He has also written for other online and analogue print publications here and overseas.