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Wednesday’s ASX 200 lunch time report

It has been a mixed day of trade for the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO). At lunch the benchmark index is down 0.2% to 5,577.9 points after heavy declines in the energy sector offset solid gains by the big four banks.

Here’s what has been happening on the ASX 200 on Wednesday:

Energy shares sink lower.

Australian energy shares such as Oil Search Limited (ASX: OSH) and Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX: WPL) have acted as major drags on the ASX 200 on Wednesday after oil prices crashed to 15-month lows overnight. At one stage the WTI crude oil price had fallen almost 8% to US$45.95 a barrel and the Brent crude oil price was down 6% to US$56.04 a barrel.

Australian banks given a lift.

The shares of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ASX: ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA), National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX: NAB), and Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) are all up over 1% at lunch. News that APRA is removing restrictions on interest-only investor lending appears to have been the driver of these gains.

Bega Cheese shares smashed.

The Bega Cheese Ltd (ASX: BGA) share price is down over 12% at lunch after the food company provided a disappointing market update. Management advised that the impact of the drought on the Australian dairy industry has led to a significant increase in farming costs and ultimately farm gate milk prices. As a result, it has forecast a normalised profit after tax in the range of $44 million and $48 million. This compares to FY 2018’s normalised net profit after tax of $44 million.

Private health premium increases announced.

Medibank Private Ltd (ASX: MPL) and NIB Holdings Limited (ASX: NHF) shares pushed higher this morning after announcing their premium increases for 2019. Medibank Private will increase premiums by an average of 3.3% and NIB Holdings will increase its premiums by 3.38%.

Best and worst performers.

The best performer on the ASX 200 at lunch is the Saracen Mineral Holdings Limited (ASX: SAR) share price which is up 6.5% thanks to a rise in the gold price and demand for risk-off assets. Going the other way is the Bega Cheese share price which is down 12%. The next worst performer is the Syrah Resources Ltd (ASX: SYR) share price which has fallen over 8% despite there being no news out of the graphite miner.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro owns shares of Westpac Banking. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of National Australia Bank Limited. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended NIB Holdings Limited. 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 Scott Phillips.

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