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ASX Small Caps Lunch Wrap: Which US elected officials made some suspiciously massive gains in 2023?

Local markets are down this morning, despite a surge in energy stocks sparked by increasing geopolitical tensions, and talks of tightening oil supply out of the Middle East.

I’ll get to the local market wrap in a moment or two, but first… we’re off to explore the exciting intersection of US Politics and Wall Street, where for quite some time there has been debate raging around whether members of Congress should be allowed to play the stock market, given that they potentially have near-total control over the success of many publicly listed companies.

Or, at the very least, elected representatives can, and often are, privy to information that could dramatically affect stock prices well in advance of even the most sophisticated AI trading platforms, which are themselves lightyears ahead of your average mug punter on the market.

Now, you’d definitely hope that nothing nefarious is going on, and that all the rules were being followed, and that nobody would be using their position as an elected official working on a range of semi-secretive government committees to do anything as gauche or uncouth as make tons and tons of money.

Indeed, back in 2012, then-President Barack Obama signed the STOCK Act, which was supposed to prevent members of Congress from trading based on details obtained through their work, like committee work or entertaining lobbyists.

And, for the most part, it looks like nobody in Congress would be so breathtakingly brazen about making a few bucks here and ther… except for a list of elected representatives identified by a group that calls themselves Unusual Whales.

Unusual Whales collates market transaction reporting from individual members of Congress (which they are compelled to do every time they or their families make a trade) and compares how those portfolio performed against an established benchmark – the The SPDR S&P 500 ETF more commonly known by its ticker code, SPY.

Unusual Whales dropped their data for 2023 a day or so ago, and it turns out that a shockingly large number of very senior US officials managed to outpace the market over the course of last year.

In some cases, by absolutely ludicrous amounts large enough to be well past “Amazing Investment Strategy” or “Statistical Anomaly”, and pushing deeeeep into “Something Ain’t Quite Right Here” territory.

Take, for instance, New York Congressman Brian Higgins – a man who looks constantly like he’s sitting at the blustery end of a powerful wind tunnel.

 

asx winner Culpeo
“… and I say to you, Senator, that fan over there is on way, waaaay too high” – Congressman Brian Higgins. Pic via Getty Images.

 

Here’s the thing, though… Higgins appears to have missed his true calling, by opting to represent the people of New York’s 26th District for the comparatively measly base salary package of US$174,000.

Because Higgins is something of an investor powerhouse, whose portfolio over the course of 2023 managed to climb 238.9%.

Just so we’re clear, that is “two hundred and thirty eight point nine” per cent – while the S&P 500 managed just over 1/10th of that in gains.

Higgins isn’t the only elected official doing well on Wall Street – Tennessee Representative Mark Green, Louisiana Representative Garrett Graves and North Carolina Representative David Rouzer all managed to hit triple-figure gains over the past 12 months as well, hitting +122.2%, +107.6% and +105.6% respectively.

 

asx winner Culpeo
Chart via Unusual Whales

 

Other data from Unusual Whales shows that there are individual US representatives making some massive plays on the market – including New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer’s two big options plays on Microsoft, worth a combined total of US$144.5 million.

I’ve barely even scratched the surface of the data for 2023 – so I might have a dig into it further as time permits – but I’ll leave this there for now, with the following statement hanging in the air like a fart in an elevator.

If the US is super-strict about banning athletes from betting on the games they’re playing in, surely the rules around elected officials playing the market should be tightened up as well.

 

TO MARKETS

Local markets are down again this morning, slumping nearly 0.4% this morning before clawing back some early losses to be at -0.27% as we break for lunch.

As always, there’s a raft of reasons why that’s happened, but having spent the morning absorbing screeds of hugely technical information and all manner of whackadoodle interpretation of those numbers, I can quite confidently say the Aussie benchmark is down because “Wall Street”.

… If you could just mail me my Walkley now, that’d be great.

Looking out at the local market sectors, and it’s basically Energy out in front by a country mile, then daylight to the rest of the market that is struggling to make any kind of headway this morning.

Energy’s on the rise thanks to climbing crude oil prices, which at the time of writing have Brent Crude up 0.54% to US$78.66 a barrel, and WTI up 0.79% to US$73.28 – and, while you were probably asleep, WTI crude futures climbed to US$73 a barrel – the biggest single daily gain since November.

Gas prices in Europe are soaring this morning as well, with TTF Gas up 7.27% and UK Gas up 6.84%, while coal prices have slumped this morning, down 2.58% at lunchtime.

And I’m not certain whether there’s been some sort of glitch, or Germany’s entire energy infrastructure has been wiped off the map completely, but the smart money will be on cornering the German candle market today if these hair-raising numbers are correct.

 

asx winner Culpeo
Chart via Trading Economics

 

Up the fancy end of Old Sydney Town, Johns Lyng Group (ASX:JLG) is one Large Cap making significant gains this morning, up 4.30% for no apparent reason – but despite its billion dollar market cap, it’s often a pretty swingy stock so… make of that what you will.

 

NOT THE ASX

In the US overnight, Wall Street slid again. The Dow Jones Index fell 286 points or 0.76% on Wednesday. The S&P 500 (down -0.7%) and the Nasdaq Composite (down -1.2%) lost as well, a day after logging its worst session since October.

In US stock news, Elon’s Tesla lost -4% and chip maker Nvidia lost -1.3%. Elsewhere in New York, Walgreens Boots Alliance (lost -4%), Boeing was hit (-3.4%) as was Caterpillar (-2.8%).

With oil on a tear overnight, the top gainers included Chevron (+2%), Merck (+1.3%) and Exxon Mobil (+1%). Over the past four weeks, Chevron gained +5.5%, but it’s still down -11%, YTD.

Other factors weighing on Wall Street included a range of new data revealing that the US labour market is cooling down, with around 1.4 job openings per person actively seeking work in the United States.

But that’s against the backdrop of fresh news showing a staggering 18% surge in business bankruptcies in the US for 2023.

In Japan, the Nikkei has predictably opened lower on its first day back from Christmas.

It’s been hit by a three-punch combo of weak efforts on Wall Street, an airline disaster that claimed at least 5 lives and the New Year’s earthquake that essentially shook the nation by the scruff of the neck, taking more than 55 people with it by the time it was done.

 

ASX SMALL CAP WINNERS

Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks for 04 January [intraday]:

Swipe or scroll to reveal full table. Click headings to sort:

Code Name Price % Change Volume Market Cap
CRB Carbine Resources 0.008 33% 200,000 3,310,427
LSR Lodestar Minerals 0.004 33% 14,802 6,070,192
OEQ Orion Equities 0.24 33% 108,485 2,816,861
CPO Culpeo Minerals 0.058 32% 21,585,469 5,128,744
EDE Eden Inv Ltd 0.0025 25% 712,597 7,334,027
KPO Kalina Power Limited 0.005 25% 20,000 8,840,512
RR1 Reach Resources Ltd 0.005 25% 100,000 12,841,188
PAM Pan Asia Metals 0.255 24% 226,415 34,402,439
BMM Balkanminingandmin 0.13 24% 350 7,459,254
ATH Alterity Therap Ltd 0.006 20% 6,206,920 14,011,802
M24 Mamba Exploration 0.056 19% 117,334 3,011,867
ICI Icandy Interactive 0.032 19% 1,559,960 36,239,553
PL3 Patagonia Lithium 0.13 18% 10,000 5,404,135
ASR Asra Minerals Ltd 0.007 17% 1,649,856 9,818,974
RML Resolution Minerals 0.0035 17% 2,002,500 3,779,990
VAL Valor Resources Ltd 0.0035 17% 58,336 12,520,004
VRC Volt Resources Ltd 0.007 17% 100,000 24,780,640
A1G African Gold Ltd. 0.036 16% 60,367 5,248,648
FFG Fatfish Group 0.023 15% 9,793,268 27,804,794
WA1 Wa1Resourcesltd 13.9 14% 361,914 516,675,105
PUR Pursuit Minerals 0.008 14% 2,020,288 20,607,800
PXX Polarx Limited 0.008 14% 6,110,000 11,477,317
TEM Tempest Minerals 0.008 14% 25,001 3,579,684
WNX Wellnex Life Ltd 0.025 14% 640,455 23,825,463
MTM MTM Critical Metals 0.079 13% 15,579,095 6,960,596

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Out in front of Small Caps land this morning is Culpeo Minerals (ASX:CPO), which – it seems – is unable to stop delivering great news, backing up December’s big announcement with a fresh one this morning about the company delineating a “large (1.7km x 0.5km footprint) copper-gold porphyry system” at its La Florida Prospect, inside the Fortuna Project in Chile.

Culpeo says that surface sampling results have returned grades up to 3.96% Cu and 2.61g/t Au, with mineralisation styles that are analogous to the company’s Lana Corina Prospect, which itself returned drill intersections of 257m @ 1.10% Cu Eq and 169m @ 1.21% CuEq.

Orion Equities (ASX:OEQ) is continuing its efforts to make hay off the back of yesterday’s announcement that its subsidiary CXM Pty Ltd stands to pocket about $5 million in a royalty payment from Miracle Iron Holdings. That’s after Miracle moved to acquire the Paulsens East Iron Ore Project located in the Pilbara, Western Australia from Strike Resources (ASX:SRK).

There’s been a large spike in interest in Talisman Mining (ASX:TLM) this morning, despite zero news from them, which has led to a 25.5% spike in value – the reason for that should become evident soon enough.

And yesterday’s high-flyer, Pan Asia Metals (ASX:PAM), is also continuing its blistering run, up another 15.8% on recent news that it is set to acquire a 100% interest in the massive Tama Atacama Chilean lithium brine asset, which comprises some 1,200km2 of “Tier 1” ground.

 

ASX SMALL CAP LOSERS

Here are the most-worst performing ASX small cap stocks for 04 January [intraday]:

Swipe or scroll to reveal full table. Click headings to sort:

Code Company Price % Volume Market Cap
AVMDC Advance Metals Ltd 0.036 -40% 3 $2,167,040
MHC Manhattan Corp Ltd 0.003 -25% 352,000 $11,747,919
88E 88 Energy Ltd 0.004 -20% 4,677,423 $123,204,013
TMK TMK Energy Limited 0.0065 -19% 1,041,394 $48,980,634
CTO Citigold Corp Ltd 0.005 -17% 474,989 $17,241,955
ESR Estrella Res Ltd 0.005 -17% 67,523 $10,556,231
LML Lincoln Minerals 0.005 -17% 1 $10,224,272
AMM Armada Metals 0.031 -16% 282,864 $7,696,000
SRK Strike Resources 0.052 -16% 788,557 $17,592,500
GPR Geopacific Resources 0.016 -16% 2,344,200 $15,612,630
OJC The Original Juice 0.125 -14% 1,256,783 $42,957,331
BLZ Blaze Minerals Ltd 0.007 -13% 125,360 $5,028,466
FGL Frugl Group Limited 0.007 -13% 3,232,179 $8,333,505
JGH Jade Gas Holdings 0.035 -13% 370,052 $63,073,367
SVG Savannah Goldfields 0.044 -12% 215,086 $10,038,678
IMI Infinity Mining 0.115 -12% 76,671 $15,437,941
NWF Newfield Resources 0.12 -11% 210,267 $121,935,027
CTN Catalina Resources 0.004 -11% 1,399,350 $5,573,191
SI6 SI6 Metals Limited 0.004 -11% 3,000,000 $8,972,367
TX3 Trinex Minerals Ltd 0.008 -11% 2,411,065 $13,383,222
MGA Metals Grove Mining 0.066 -11% 23,071 $2,752,837
FZR Fitzroy River Corp 0.135 -10% 133,970 $16,193,138
CNJ Conico Ltd 0.0045 -10% 15,000 $7,850,475
RKT Rocketdna Ltd 0.009 -10% 248,336 $6,522,260
5EA 5E Advanced 0.235 -10% 1,075,038 $79,991,644

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