Kicking the chocks away. Gloom, doom and sag? Big tech and old-line media stocks were in the firing line overnight, helping to drag Wall Street to the worst performance for 2015 as Netflix, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and Apple all fell sharply. Traditional media stocks, especially in cable and free-to-air TV, were also hammered — for a second Thursday in the last three — after one of the sector’s top analysts downgraded two of the sector’s biggest names and cast doubt over valuations of the rest of the sector. Apple shares fell 2% and are now down more than 15% from their most recent high, Amazon shares lost 3.2%, Twitter lost nearly 6% and is now under its issue price of US$26, Facebook shares dropped 4.7%, but the surprise was the 9.5% plunge in the price of Netflix, the streaming video darling. Four of these five shares have been responsible for much of the market performance this year, but now they are on the nose, and Wall Street analysts are starting to look for a major sharemarket crunch happening ahead of the expected US Federal Reserve rate rise next month. The S&P 500 index is now down 1.1% for the year, our market is also under its 2014 close, but with these big US tech stocks falling, and signs the US economy is not growing strongly, there are fears a big global correction could be just around the corner. Watch China; its wobbles are not convincing and could trigger more falls. We could be on the cusp of an emerging economies crisis and that includes China, our biggest export market. — Glenn Dyer

ASX makes out like a bandit. That’s an American phrase describing a person or company making money, hand over fist — legitimately. ASX Ltd qualifies (as do our big banks). ASX runs Australia’s major sharemarket (it has a near monopoly for the buying and selling of shares, and the only real competition is Chi-X Australia, which can’t muster the same sort of daily volume as the ASX — $3.6 billion in the year to June). And it is close to the most profitable mainline business in the country, with fat, fat gross profit margins. The company yesterday revealed its 2014-15 result — revenue rose 6.5% to $700.7 million, from $658.3 million, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation was up 6.4% to $540.6 million from $504.6 million. Media reports looked at the pre-tax and after-tax figures, but EBITDA is as close as you can get to a measurement of pure profit. And it’s very, very impressive: the gross profit margin in the year to June edged up to 77.1% (yes, 77.1%) from 76.6%. Shareholders get a dividend of a fat $1.87 a share, it was still a fat 90% of after-tax profit. Given that nearly everyone in Australia has shares directly or indirectly (through various super funds), we are all paying the ASX too much money, judging by the huge profit margins and big dividend payout. The ASX’s high charges add tens of millions of dollars a year to transaction costs for all investors (reducing returns), but curiously no one seems interested, especially those free marketeers in the Abbott government and the Productivity Commission.  — Glenn Dyer

Qantas rides cheap fuel. Amid Qantas’ profit turnaround ($1.6 billion in fact) the national carrier revealed savings of $461 million in its fuel bill as oil prices halved in the year to June (and they have fallen 30%-plus since June 30, so further savings are there for the asking in the current half year). Jet fuel is Qantas’ single largest cost, and the airline’s total bill fell under $4 billion for the year. Qantas managed to eke out further fuel savings of $136 million from ensuring quicker turnaround of planes at airports, reducing fuel burn of aircraft and retiring older gas-guzzling aircraft plan such as Boeing 767s. All up that’s a positive contribution of $597 million to the turnaround (helping finance the $505 million return to shareholders of 23 cents a share). That’s a long way from $2.8 billion in losses in 2013-14 and all the doom and gloom. — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

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