Markets Live: ASX ends wild ride higher
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Markets Live: ASX ends wild ride higher

That is all from us today. Thank you for your time and your comments.

We will be back tomorrow when half year reports are coming in from Fortescue, NetComm, Scentre Group, Sims Metal, Woolworths, WiseTech, a2 Milk, Crown Resorts, Domino's Pizza, Fletcher Building, and more.

BHP reported an eight per cent fall in its underlying attributable profit to $US4.03 billion for the December half, but it has pledged to reward shareholders with an interim dividend the same size as last year's. The underlying profit came in below analyst expectations, but the 55 US cent per share dividend is two cents greater than consensus expectations.

Chief executive officer Andrew Mackenzie said BHP had maintained a focus during the year on portfolio simplification, cash generation and capital discipline and that this had "delivered higher cash returns to shareholders in the December 2018 half year".

According to Vuma consensus analysts were expecting BHP to report a half year attributable profit from continuing operations of $US4.21 billion, total revenue of $US20.69 billion and total underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of $US10.63 billion. Analysts had predicted an interim dividend of US53 cents per share.

Shares closed at $37.01 on Tuesday before the results were released.

Full story from Darren Gray will be available online soon.

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BHP says it will not pay a special dividend, as many shareholders expected, but will pay a US55 cents dividend payable 26 March.

In the first half of 2018-19 BHP's total revenue was flat at $US20.7 billion, and total profit is up 87 per cent to $US3.7 billion.

The S&P/ASX 200 hit a high of 6119 around lunch time today and managed to stay above the 6100 level to close at 6106.9 this afternoon.

There were massive swings in several companies after their results disappointed, or surprised, the market greatly.

Blackmores ended the day 24.8 per cent lower at $92.86 and Emeco closed 24.2 per cent lower at $9.63. Health sector heavyweight Cochlear dropped a massive 8.14 per cent to $178.58, which wiped three and a half points off the market. Seven West Media dropped nearly 8 per cent to 52 cents on a poor outlook for the metropolitan advertising market.

Meanwhile on the upside Altium ended the day 20.3 per cent higher at $32.56 and IOOF closed 16.4 per cent higher at 6.17 per cent.

We will bring you some headlines from the BHP result shortly, which has just been released.

Altium shares are still 20 per cent higher at $32.48 after its half year results, turning it from a $3.5 billion on Monday to a $4.2 billion company on Tuesday.

The result is led by strong growth in China, and Altium unveiled an aspirational goal of $500 million in revenue by 2025. The stock, which traded below 10¢ in 2011, soared more than 24 per cent to a high of $33.64 on Tuesday morning after the market absorbed the results announcement made the prior evening.

Its profit margins increased from 30 per cent the prior first half to 36.3 per cent, and company chief executive Aram Mirkazemi said the company was on track to meet its target of $200 million in revenue by 2020 with a profit margin of 35 per cent or more.

Read the full story from Colin Kruger here

Energy giant Origin will sell its underperforming Ironbark coal seam gas project to its own subsidiary Australia Pacific LNG for $231 million, a third of what it paid for it a decade ago. Last year, Origin booked a $355 million after-tax impairment on the Ironbark project after it halved the site's production potential from 249 petajoules to 129 petajoules of gas.

An unnamed energy analyst said the deal made sense for Origin as Ironbark's gas would always go through APLNG assets but if Origin still owned Ironbark it would have required negotiations with Origin's APLNG partners to process and transport the gas.

"There would have been concerns in these negotiations if Origin retained ownership of Ironbark and was negotiating the deal through APLNG," he said. Origin's share price dropped less than one per cent, trading at $7.64. by mid-afternoon.

The full story by Cole Latimer will be online soon

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There are wild swings on the Australian stock market today as half-year reporting season cracks open surprising and disappointing results.

Over the past five sessions: Breville Group has jumped 28 per cent, Altium 22.3 per cent, Domain Holdings, 21 per cent, and Aveo Group 18.4 per cent. On the downside, Bingo Industries is down 42.7 per cent, Emeco Holdings is down 25.5 per cent and Blakcmores is down 23.4 per cent.

Portfolio manager at Tribeca Investment Partners, Jun Bei Liu, says the size of the swings speaks to the light volume of trading but also investors over-reaction.

"The market has become skewed in terms of expectations," she says. "The minute a company disappoints, investors don't want to have any money in it. It is quite polarised at the moment."

The quantum of company downgrades or upgrades is also unusual, she says. For example Bingo Industries downgraded its earnings guidance by 20 per cent on Monday. And these large changes are taking analysts and the market by surprise.

The biggest changes in stock prices over the past month among ASX 200 stocks

The biggest changes in stock prices over the past month among ASX 200 stocks

The S&P/ASX 200 is hitting a four-month high this afternoon at 6114.5 thanks largely the local information technology sector, which is up 25 per cent since in the past three months after hitting a low-point in December last year.

S&P/ASX 200 index is up at four-month highs today despite some surprisingly bad results.

S&P/ASX 200 index is up at four-month highs today despite some surprisingly bad results.

It's unusually volatile on the market today with three companies among the top 200 moving more than 20 per cent. Altium is up 21.2 per cent, while Emeco Holdings is down 24.2 per cent and Blackmores is down 23.2 per cent. And index heavyweight Cochlear has dropped by 8 per cent down to $178.92.

And yet the index remains steadily above 6100 thanks to the Altium gains (which added 2.5 points to the index) and the four banks. Labor's earlier announcement that it will introduce legislation to implement recommendations from the Hayne banking royal commission have not damaged their share price at all.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Ben Wilson says the Oil Search result is exactly what analysts were expecting given "extensive pre-disclosure". Shares are down 1 per cent at $8.08 in afternoon trading and volumes are well below average. This morning the company announced underlying earnings of $US1.1 billion and post-tax profit of $US341 million.

"While we see Oil Search as a solid growth story via PNG and Alaska, we struggle with relative valuation appeal, bearing in mind recent advancements in competing LNG supply options (Mozambique, US, Canada)," Mr Wilson wrote in a note to clients.

"We remain optimistic for competitive fiscal terms on its brownfields PNG LNG three-train expansion in light of the current competitive terms on PNG LNG. On the Alaskan front, we note Oil Search's intention to exercise its option to acquire Armstrong's remaining 26 per cent interest ahead of a sell-down to a third party."

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