Australian shares flat after NZ’s hawkish surprise

Derek Rose |

The Australian share market has given up its early gains to finish basically unchanged after central bankers across the ditch pushed back the timing of interest rate cuts.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Wednesday finished down 3.6 points, or 0.05 per cent, to 7,848.1, while the broader All Ordinaries dropped 1.9 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 8,118.3.

The ASX200 had been up by as much as 0.35 per cent around midday but gave up those gains after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s latest decision on interest rates.

As was widely expected, the RBNZ left interest rates unchanged at 5.5 per cent, but unexpectedly said it had considered a rate hike and pushed back the timing of cuts from the second to the third quarter of next year.

Nomura analysts Andrew Ticehurst and David Seif were among commentators describing it as a surprise, although they didn’t entirely buy the degree of hawkishness suggested by the RBNZ’s statements.

Four of the ASX’s 11 sectors finished lower and six were higher, with health care basically flat. 

Telecommunications was the biggest mover, dropping 2.5 per cent as Telstra fell 4.2 per cent to a nearly three-year low of $3.42 following the company’s announcement of 2,800 job layoffs on Tuesday.

Eagers Automotive was the biggest loser in the ASX200, sinking 15 per cent to a nearly two-year low of $10.36 after the auto dealer said it expects to earn 15 per cent less profit in the first half than it did in 2023.

“We are a consumer-facing business and therefore not immune from the well-documented economic conditions – including inflation, interest rates and cost-of-living pressures – which impact consumer spending,” chairman Timothy Crommelin told the company’s annual general meeting in Brisbane.  

On the flip side, Webjet soared 7.7 per cent to a four-year high of $9.09 after the travel company said it was considering separating its WebBeds business-to-business marketplace for the travel trade from its consumer travel agency.

Any demerger would be completed during 2024/25 and both companies would be listed on the ASX, Webjet said. 

Technology One climbed another 6.6 per cent to a fresh closing all-time high of $17.86, adding to Tuesday’s gains following the Brisbane software-as-a-service’s well-received earnings report.

The Big Four banks were mixed, with ANZ up 1.1 per cent to $28.62 and NAB adding 0.2 per cent to $34.79, while Westpac was flat at $27.07 and CBA fell 0.2 per cent to $121.50.

In the heavyweight materials sector, Fortescue gained 1.1 per cent to $27.30, Rio Tinto climbed 1.6 per cent to $136.17 and BHP rose 0.4 per cent to $46.24 as the clock ticked down for the Big Australian to make a firm offer for Anglo American.

Under a provision in British takeover rules, BHP has until 2am AEST on Thursday to make a binding offer or walk away for at least six months.

Traders were also waiting for AI chipmaker Nvidia’s earnings report, which should be delivered around 7.30am AEST on Thursday and could be a key catalyst for markets around the world.

The Australian dollar was buying 66.62 US cents, from 66.56 cents at Tuesday’s ASX close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 closed on Wednesday down 3.6 points, or 0.05 per cent, to 7,848.1.

* The broader All Ordinaries dropped 1.9 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 8,118.3.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 66.62 US cents, from 66.56 US cents at Tuesday’s ASX close

* 104.13 Japanese yen, from 103.97 Japanese yen

* 61.32 Euro cents, from 61.31 Euro cents

* 52.25 British pence, from 52.37 pence

* 108.90 NZ cents, from 109.34 NZ cents.