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The share market shrugged off weak leads from Wall Street as strengthening commodity prices lifted most miners and energy producers.

The S&P/ASX 200 rallied 25 points or 0.34 per cent. The rally reversed most of yesterday’s loss and inched the benchmark one point into positive territory for the week.

Gains in Rio Tinto, Santos and Wesfarmers helped offset mild down-pressure from property and tech stocks. The major banks were mixed after long-term borrowing rates backed off recent highs.

What moved the market

Commodity stocks kept the market on the rise after Chinese moves to ease Covid lockdowns fuelled sharp gains in crude oil, iron ore and metals.

Brent crude jumped US$6.16 or 6.3 per cent overnight to US$104.64 a barrel. Iron ore rallied 1.7 per cent, copper 1.4 per cent and aluminium 0.5 per cent.

The gains came after Chinese authorities lifted lockdowns on roughly a quarter of Shanghai’s 25 million people in areas least affected by the current outbreak.

Commodities strength helped offset a soft night on Wall Street as US inflation continued to run at a 40-year high. The S&P 500 faded to a loss of 0.34 per cent as sellers jumped on an early rally after concluding a mild improvement in core inflation was unlikely to divert the Federal Reserve from a series of rate hikes.

Australian investors got a hint where rates may be heading after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand hiked its key rate this morning. The RBNZ raised by 50 basis points to 1.5 per cent. By contrast, the Australian cash rate target still sits at a record-low 0.1 per cent.

“Heading into today’s meeting it was widely debated as to whether the RBNZ would hike by 25 or 50 bps points, given they had themselves described the choice as “finely balanced”. Well, today they hike by 50 bps for the first time in 22 years (to the month) which is in itself a signal that inflation is indeed getting too hot handle,” City Index senior market analyst Matt Simpson said.

“Today’s hike is to soothe fears of higher for longer inflation, and aimed specifically at lowering inflation expectations,” he added.

Back home, the focus switches tomorrow to the strengthening labour market. The unemployment rate is expected to drop under 4 per cent from February’s 13-year low.

“Australia’s unemployment rate data for March 2022 will be closely watched tomorrow, especially after it became a matter of political debate in the election campaign. Speculations are rife that the jobless rate could plunge below 4% in the upcoming March data amidst ongoing staff shortages,” Kalkine CEO Kunal Sawhney said.

“Certain experts credit pandemic-induced measures – record-low interest rates and outsized government spending – for the low unemployment in Australia, which have been creating more jobs. However, the labour market is yet to rebound from a prolonged halt of international students during the pandemic, which has been making it difficult for employers to find skilled workers.”

Winners’ circle

EML Payments jumped 10.53 per cent after confirming takeover interest from private equity. The payments company said discussions with US private investment giant Bain Capital took place earlier in the year but had now ceased.

Miner Iluka Resources climbed 0.88 per cent to an all-time high on plans to demerge its Africa-focused mineral sands operation. The company believes a demerger of Sierra Rutile will maximise the value of the deposits and allow Iluka to focus on its core Australian assets.

Rio Tinto was the best of the major bulk metal miners, rising 2.04 per cent. Fortescue Metals added 0.8 per cent and BHP 0.12 per cent.

Lithium miner AVZ Minerals jumped 11.65 per cent, uranium miner Paladin 9.64 per cent and gold miner Regis Resources 5.88 per cent.

Energy producers turned mixed even as oil added to last night’s gain. Brent crude climbed 63 US cents or 0.6 per cent this afternoon to US$105.27.

Santos and Beach Energy advanced 1.25 and 0.96 per cent, respectively. Woodside faded to a loss of 0.03 per cent.

Progress on the Geelong Energy Hub lifted Viva Energy 1.96 per cent. The company announced it had approved funding to upgrade the Geelong Refinery to produce ultra-low sulphur gasoline. Viva will also acquire LyondellBasell Australia, a polymer manufacturer with a facility at the refinery.

Gaming group PointsBet bounced 3.59 per cent from a two-year low after launching an online casino product in Pennsylvania.  

Pancreatic cancer specialist OncoSil Medical soared 73.81 per cent on news surgeons in Spain performed the first commercial treatment using the firm’s OncoSil device in Europe. Ten Spanish hospitals have been trained in the use of the device for radiation treatment.

Doghouse

The session’s worst performers were a mixed bag. Building materials provider Adbri fell 4.64 per cent, fiber cement manufacturer James Hardie 2.9 per cent and fund manager Perpetual 2.3 per cent.

At the heavyweight end, Goodman dipped 1.14 per cent, Transurban 0.37 per cent and CBA 0.15 per cent.

Payments companies Tyro and Zip Co shed 1 and 2.27 per cent, respectively, following yesterday’s disappointing result from Afterpay.

The Star Entertainment Group fell 0.97 per cent to a 19-month low amid on-going negative publicity from an inquiry in Sydney.

Cloud-computing microcap Buddy Technologies’ time on the boards ended today in receivership. The company announced it had appointed FTI Consulting as receivers and managers. Shares that traded as high as 41.5 cents in 2017 were valued at six-tenths of a cent before the announcement.

Other markets

Asian markets strengthened in afternoon trade as S&P 500 futures rallied 31 points or 0.71 per cent.

The Asia Dow climbed 0.98 per cent, Japan’s Nikkei 1.95 per cent, China’s Shanghai Composite 0.31 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.93 per cent.

Gold eased for the first time in five sessions, dipping 30 US cents or 0.02 per cent to US$1,975.80 an ounce.

The dollar was steady at 74.54 US cents.

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