Stock market edges closer to the magic 6000 mark – The Sydney Morning Herald

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Elizabeth Knight

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Sharemarket watchers were frozen in anticipation on Monday morning as they watched Australia’s main index shrug off a weak lead from the US and move up towards that magic 6000 mark, a level not seen since the global financial crisis in 2008.

By lunch the market was sitting at just over 5900.

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At what level does the ASX 200 become expensive?

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While there are plenty of experts that maintain the market has already moved up beyond the comfort zone where the earnings would support its value, markets move for a whole series of reasons that sometimes ignore the fundamentals of value.

While our sharemarket traditionally follows the lead set by offshore markets, investors appeared to take in their stride internationally volatility, including US air strikes in Syria and some weak economic data over the weekend.

Deutsche Bank says we can thank a flood of offshore investment into Australian stocks. Deutsche Bank says we can thank a flood of offshore investment into Australian stocks. Photo: Sasha Woolley

The main market index, the S&P/ASX200, was bolstered by the increasing share prices of some of the biggest Australian corporate names, including the banks and Telstra.

The Australian market also ignored the 6.8 per cent fall in the price of iron ore on Friday. Instead the twin iron ore giants of production, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, were both up strongly.

By early afternoon, some of the exuberance appeared to wane just a little but moved up again on the close to finish within a few solid performances away from hitting this 6000 psychological level.

The experts from investment bank Deutsche Bank posited a view that, among other things, we can thank a flood of offshore investment into Australian stocks.

How the ASX moved on Monday. How the ASX moved on Monday. 

In turn, one reason for their renewed interest is the weakness of the Australian dollar, relative to its 10-year average. An undervalued currency translates into cheap buying for offshore investors.

Another factor making the Australian market attractive to foreigners is the prospects for better earnings; again much of the improvement will come from increased profits of our mining stocks. (Until a few weeks ago, the iron ore price was surging.)

The Turnbull government will be pleased to hear that our equities market is also rated highly because of relative “low policy uncertainty”, but this probably says more about the lack of certainty in Europe and the US.

Another attraction is the dividend yield of some of our major companies. This has long been a feature of the Australian market.

This investment appeal may not be enough to enable the market to claw its way to 6000 points.

At the start of the year, expert predictions were enormously varied but few major economists saw the market reaching 6000 this year and fewer still thought it might get there before June.  

The company made infamous for its ownership of tragedy-struck Dreamworld has now been struck with misfortune due to heavy rain in Queensland, giving would be patrons yet another reason to stay away from the Gold Coast theme park.

In the first three weeks of March, unseasonably heavy rain dampened the nascent signs the public was prepared to brave a visit. Revenues were down 34.3 per cent on the same period last year and visitation slumped by an even bigger 36.7 per cent compared with March last year.

As mercenary as this may seem, the horrific accident that killed four people, the company’s infamous poor handling of the public relations after the event and the unknowable financial ramifications provided the perfect circumstances for a raid on the company’s shares.

A few weeks back, Queensland-based property developer Ariadne seized on uncertainty and picked up a 5 per cent stake in Dreamworld’s parent company Ardent Leisure.

It was a classic play from the standpoint of a share raider, and the man behind Ariadne, Gary Weiss, is a veteran of this art.

Before the Dreamworld tragedy in October, the Ardent Leisure share price was sitting comfortably at $2.75. The accident caused it to fall precipitously to $2 and subsequent financial updates confirmed that revenue had been decimated in December (down more than 60 per cent) and January (off more than 40 per cent).

The weather has played havoc with the corporate comeback and pushed the share price down again on Monday, but the company is nonetheless heading in the right direction. Ariadne’s play was perfect timing.

But what it does with this stake remains to be seen. The talk around the industry centres on the stake being used to agitate for changes in management and the board rather than a precursor to a takeover.