Midday Market Movers: National Australia Bank leads ASX big banks higher

The S&P/ASX 200 (Index:^AXJO) (ASX:XJO) may be slipping into the red but a number of underperforming ASX shares are finding favour today despite growing risk aversion among investors.

The ASX 200 fell 0.3% to 5,574 in late morning trade as ongoing worries about the health of the global economy continues to rattle global markets.

But don’t let the gloom on the ASX faze you as a saying from Warren Buffett about being greedy when others are fearful applies to the current market turmoil.

The fact that some of the more beaten down ASX stocks of 2018 are attracting buying support is a positive sign, and one of this morning’s standouts among the dogs of the ASX is the National Australia Bank Ltd. (ASX: NAB) share price.

The NAB share price jumped 1.5% to $23.47 and is the best performing big bank stock at the time of writing as its managers faced shareholders at its annual general meeting (AGM).

National Australia Bank (ASX: NAB) Chart

Sentiment towards the sector was bolstered after APRA removed caps on interest-only loans but bargain hunters may have also been prompted to act after its chairman Ken Henry took a more conciliatory tone towards NAB’s salary structure and past misdeeds.

NAB is likely to face the highest protest vote against its remuneration report than any other ASX company in history and its shares have crashed by more than 20% since the start of 2018.

Another stock that is outperforming is the Medibank Private Ltd (ASX: MPL) share price, which is up 1.7% at $2.40 after it announced it would raise premiums by 3.3% from April 1, 2019.

This represents the lowest average premium increase in 18 years and that should help take political pressure off the private health insurer as the federal opposition Labor Party is threatening to put mandatory caps on premiums if it wins office.

The Medibank share price has shed 27% since January.

Medibank Private (ASX: MPL) Chart

The Orica Ltd (ASX: ORI) share price is also trading higher with the chemicals and explosives company holding its AGM this morning.

The Orica share price increased by nearly 1% to $17.40 after management gave a reassuring outlook for 2019 and said that it had “firm plans” to increase earnings for the year.

Several brokers have also pointed out that the stock is looking cheap and the risk from the oversupply of ammonium nitrate is more than reflected in Orica’s current share price.

Orica Ltd (ASX ORI) Chart