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The share market overcame early weakness to rise for a second day as index heavyweights CSL and Afterpay rebounded.

The S&P/ASX 200 reversed direction in afternoon trade to finish ten points or 0.13 per cent ahead.

BNPL leader Afterpay bounced off a 14-month low. Health giant CSL continued to heal after a discounted capital raising last week. Link Administration soared 15 per cent after accepting a takeover offer. Miners and REITs declined.

What moved the market

The market took its time to warm to positive overnight leads, but eventually edged to back-to-back gains for the first time in more than a week. Trading activity is expected to decline in the rundown to the four-day Christmas break.

“With no key economic events planned in the ongoing week, one can expect a quiet week ahead of Christmas,” Kalkine Group CEO Kunal Sawhney said. “The share market performance is expected to be driven by updates around the Omicron variant and the resultant lockdown restrictions, besides any corporate surprises.”

US stocks rebounded overnight as dip-buyers took advantage of the biggest three-session retreat since September. The S&P 500 bounced 1.78 per cent. The Dow put on 561 points.

“Investors’ renewed risk appetite regardless of rising virus cases worldwide has bolstered hopes around the occurrence of the Santa rally this year,” Mr Sawhney said.

“While year-end holiday trading could rule in favour of stocks, it is hard to neglect risks around the Omicron variant and hawkish central banks. It will be interesting to see if the new COVID-19 variant will deprive share markets of any festive cheer or allow it to sustain a Santa rally.”

Buying interest back home was crimped by record Covid cases in NSW. The state reported 3,763 new cases this morning. Prime Minister Scott Morrison this afternoon urged Australians to wear masks in public indoor settings.

Unsurprisingly, Covid testers have ranked high among this week’s best performers. Healius, Sonic Healthcare and Australian Clinical Labs closed at all-time highs. ACL climbed 0.89 per cent, Healius 0.37 per cent and Sonic Healthcare 0.11 per cent.  

Winners’ circle

Takeover target Link Administration jumped 15.03 per cent to $5.51 after the board unanimously recommended a takeover offer from Canada’s Dye & Durham.
The offer of $5.50 a share, plus a three-cent dividend, from the legal software company topped an offer from Carlyle Group last month.

Link Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Vivek Bhatia said, “The proposed transaction is an endorsement of Link Group’s leading global technology enabled platform. The combination with Dye & Durham will support our growth strategy and create significant opportunities for our employees and our customers.”

Lithium miners rebounded amid signs US President Joe Biden’s green energy-friendly social spending bill still has a pulse. Senate Democrats vowed to press ahead with a vote on the package despite resistance from a key supporter. Biden said the bill could still pass.

Pilbara Minerals bounced 8.76 per cent. Liontown Resources gained 4.04 per cent.

Afterpay rallied 5.41 per cent from a 14-month low following a 7.69 per cent jump in US suitor Block overnight. Other heavyweights to advance included CSL +1.23 per cent, Woodside +0.84 per cent and Aristocrat Leisure +1.06 per cent.

The announcement of a special dividend helped lift builder Sunland to an all-time high. The group announced it had settled the sale of its Ingleside property in NSW for $35.3 million, a net profit of $11.9 million. The company will pay a fully-franked special dividend of 10 cents per share on January 13. The share price hit $2.90 before paring its rise to 2.13 per cent at $2.88.

Praemium climbed 2.13 per cent after selling its international operations to Morningstar for $65.1 million. CEO Anthony Wamsteker said the sale would unlock capital and allow the company to focus on its Australian platform and tech.

The major banks finished mixed. CBA tacked on 0.19 per cent. Westpac added 0.1 per cent. NAB lost 0.63 per cent and ANZ 0.33 per cent.

Doghouse

BHP eased 0.77 per cent from a three-month high after withdrawing from the contest for Noront Resources. The Big Australian said it would not increase its offer after Andrew Forrest’s unlisted Wyloo Metals topped its bid for the Canadian nickel miner.

BHP’s Chief Development Officer, Johan van Jaarsveld, said, “BHP is committed to its strict capital discipline framework. While the Eagle’s Nest deposit is a promising resource, we do not see adequate long-term value for BHP shareholders to support an increase in BHP’s offer in order to match the C$1.10 per share proposal from Wyloo Metals Pty Ltd.”

Rio Tinto shed 2.02 per cent on news it will pay $1.15 billion to acquire a lithium project in Argentina. The miner will buy the Rincon project from Rincon Mining, a company owned by funds managed by private-equity firm Sentient Equity Partners.

Rio CEO Jakob Stausholm said, “The Rincon project holds the potential to deliver a significant new supply of batterygrade lithium carbonate, to capture the opportunity offered by the rising demand driven by the global energy transition. It is expected to be a long life, low-cost asset.”

Charter Hall Group slid 7.54 per cent after announcing plans to take a 50 per cent stake in fund manager Paradice Investment Management. The property group will pay $207 million in cash and equity. Paradice has $18.2 billion in funds under management invested in Australian and overseas equities.

Charter Hall’s Social Infrastructure REIT (CQE) gained 1.32 per cent after increasing its distribution guidance and announcing the acquisition of two childcare portfolios.

Builder Cimic dipped 0.3 per cent after its joint venture with Ghella was selected to build a tunnel and station boxes for the Sydney-Western Sydney Airport rail line. The contract will generate revenue of $1.35 billion for Cimic’s CPB Contractors.

Other markets

Asian markets trimmed morning gains. The Asia Dow was last up 0.24 per cent, China’s Shanghai Composite 0.01 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.33 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 0.08 per cent.

US futures drifted lower at the Australian market close. S&P 500 futures declined six points or 0.13 per cent.

Oil added to last night’s gain. Brent crude firmed 15 US cents or 0.2 per cent to US$74.13 a barrel.

Gold steadied following a two-day decline. The yellow metal rose 20 US cents or 0.01 per cent to US$1,788.90 an ounce.

The dollar wilted 0.19 per cent in afternoon trade to 71.34 US cents.

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