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The Australian share market staged its biggest point rally in a month as promising data from a US COVID-19 vaccine study fuels hope regarding the end of the pandemic.

Biotech giant Moderna revealed in early-stage testing of its vaccine candidate, no serious adverse effects were found in patients and all trial participants produced “reasonably high” levels of virus-killing antibodies. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director, Dr Anthony Fauci, said the results are “good news.” It’s still early days, however, but encouraging enough that Moderna is planning to kick phase three trials off in late-July.

On the back of the vaccine news, US futures rose and brought the ASX to a happy close. The S&P/ASX 200 index tacked on 1.88 per cent, or 111.8 points, to close at 6052.9 points.

All eleven sectors of our local share market closed green today, with the heavily-weighted materials sector up 2.66 per cent. After spending the better part of the year trying to offset each other, iron ore and gold stocks have struck a new rhythm in recent weeks of moving in the same direction, for better or for worse. Today was no exception, with BHP up 2.48 per cent, Fortescue up 3.35 per cent, and Rio Tinto up 3.68 per cent. Meanwhile, Newcrest gained 2.34 per cent, Northern Star gained 3.03 per cent, and Silver Lake gained 4.42 per cent.

After yesterday’s beating, tech stocks staged a recovery today, with Afterpay closing 2.42 per cent higher. Gains were solid across the board, however, as Xero put on 3.32 per cent, Computershare 3.21 per cent, and WiseTech 4.58 per cent.

The financials sector closed towards the lower end of the gains, but a win is a win in a once-in-a-generation global pandemic. Commonwealth Bank was the pick of the litter for our big four banks, up 1.39 per cent at market close. ANZ gained 1.3 per cent, Westpac gained 0.84 per cent, and NAB gained 0.44 per cent. Investment banking giant Macquarie Group closed 1.9 per cent higher.

It was mostly green for Asian markets today with the exception of China’s Shanghai Composite, down 0.26 per cent when the ASX closed. The Asia Dow is currently higher by 1.37 per cent, the Nikkei 225 by 1.66 per cent, and the Hang Seng by 0.11 per cent.

As for our local currency, one Aussie dollar currently buys 69.96 US cents, 55.62 pence, and 11.68 South African Rand.

Today’s ups and downs

Health care company 1st Group (ASX:1ST) closed at a healthy premium after teaming up with buy now, pay later competitor Openpay (ASX:OPY) to bring delayed payment services to the MyHealth1st platform. Under today’s deal, Openpay will roll out its payment services to roughly 60 health care sites before the end of the year, with further expansion subject to the performance of this first phase. 1st Group shares closed 38.71 per cent higher at 4.3 cents each, while Openpay shares closed 11.82 per cent lower at $3.88 each.

Junior gold explorer West Wits Mining (ASX:WWI) revealed a delay at its South African gold project in the historic Witwatersrand Basin, and the result was a tumbling share price. The company said approval for environmental authorisation project will be delayed for 90 days after one appeal during the application process. Shares promptly slumped to close 31.82 per cent down and worth 1.5 cents each.

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