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Morning market movers: 17 stocks to watch

Steel yourselves for another hair-raising plunge on the ASX as US and European stock indices suffered 3-5% floggings and commodities crashed in overnight trade.

The S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) is expected to open 3.5% lower in sympathy following yesterday’s 4.1% tumble that was sparked by increasing fears that a deepening Chinese economic slowdown will drag on global growth.

While the global market rout could dissuade bargain hunters to step up, I think this is a buying opportunity for two reasons. Firstly, Asian and US economies are much better positioned to weather the storm than they have been during the global financial crisis, while corporate balance sheets are in far better shape as well.

Secondly, what has fundamentally changed over the past several months? Sure there is some new weak economic data from China but we have always known that China was slowing.

There have always been suspicions that the country won’t make official growth targets, but there were expectations that Chinese officials would move to stimulate growth. These are playing out as what most experts were expecting, yet we are all panicking.

But today is not the time to be discussing logic. Not when there’s so much blood running down the local bourse. Resource stocks are likely to be on the frontline of the carnage with the iron ore price tumbling 5% to $US53.28 a tonne, the West Texas Intermediate oil price plunging 5.5% to $US38.24 and copper shedding 2.2% to $2.2480 a pound.

This isn’t a good backdrop to be handing in your profit report card but mining giant BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP) will have to do just that as it is expected to unveil its full year results.

It will have good company though as a number of other market heavyweights are also standing by to announce their profit numbers.

Packaging company Amcor Limited (ASX: AMC) is one of the early birds as it posted a net profit of $680.3 million for 2014-15 that was a little ahead of consensus but warned of a challenging first half for its flexibles business.

Facilities and laundry services group Spotless Group Holdings Ltd (ASX: SPO) delivered a 512% surge in statutory net profit to $142.8 million for 2014-15 and said its current financial year results will materially exceed profits from the last year; while intimate apparel and hosiery distributor Pacific Brands Limited (ASX: PBG) announced a normalised net profit of $37.5 million that was in-line with consensus.

Other companies that will report today include energy company Oil Search Limited (ASX: OSH), shopping centre operator Scentre Group Ltd (ASX: SCG), hospital owner Healthscope Ltd (ASX: HSO), salary packaging company McMillan Shakespeare Limited (ASX: MMS) and entertainment company Village Roadshow Ltd (ASX: VRL).

A number of companies that are trading without their dividend entitlements will add to the drag on the market. Stocks going ex-div include power utility AGL Energy Ltd (ASX: AGL), takeover target iiNet Limited (ASX: IIN), energy company Origin Energy Ltd (ASX: ORG), online property website operator REA Group Limited (ASX: REA), telecom giant Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS) and conglomerate Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES).

In other news, AMP Limited (ASX: AMP) and Infrastructure Capital Group have won the auction to build the Port Hedland international airport, according to the Australian Financial Review, while building supplies company Boral Limited (ASX: BLD) is close to striking a deal to sell all or part of its US bricks business, reports The Australian.

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Scott just revealed what he believes are the five best ASX stocks for investors to buy right now. These stocks are trading at dirt-cheap prices and Scott thinks they are great buys right now.

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Motley Fool contributor Brendon Lau owns shares of AMP Limited, BHP Billiton Limited, iiNet Ltd., and Oil Search Limited. Follow me on Twitter - https://twitter.com/brenlau

The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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