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A fifth straight advance for the nation’s mining giants helped the share market eke out a slender win from a choppy session.

The S&P/ASX 200 shrugged off mixed leads to finish eight points or 0.1 per cent ahead.

Afterpay and the big three bulk metals miners led the advance. The banks softened as a rally in interest rates took a breather. Tech stocks rose for the first time in four sessions.  

What moved the market

Equity markets have been on ‘care and maintenance’ for much of the week as Wall Street wound down towards tonight’s Thanksgiving holiday. US stocks have seen plenty of rotation, but minimal headline movement.

The major indices have finished mixed each session since Monday. Overnight, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 rose, while the Dow took a modest backward step.

The ASX 200 was already stuck in a month-long sideways trading pattern and needs clearer leads to break the trend in either direction. The benchmark ended today’s session within 11 points of where it started the week.

To make significant progress, the index needs both of its workhorses, the banks and the miners, to pull in the same direction. That has happened only once this week. Today, financials fell 0.9 per cent. Materials rallied 0.87 per cent.  

A week of supportive economic data continued today. Westpac upgraded its forecast for next week’s Q3 economic growth report following stronger-than-expected construction, export and business spending data this week. The bank’s economists predict gross domestic product contracted 2.5 per cent last quarter, an improvement on a previous prediction of a 4 per cent contraction.

A report this morning showed private business capex spending declined 2.2 per cent in the September quarter, beating Westpac’s expectations. The report showed businesses expect to spend up to 14 per cent more next year.

Winners’ circle

A week-long recovery in iron ore prices kept the mining majors on the upswing. Fortescue Metals climbed 1.76 per cent, Rio Tinto 1.64 per cent and BHP 0.99 per cent. Mineral Resources gained 4.43 per cent, Pilbara Minerals 3.16 per cent and Champion Iron 0.87 per cent. Spot ore prices regained the US$100 a tonne level overnight amid growing optimism about a pick-up in steel production.

A relief rally lifted the tech sector following three days of rates pressure. Afterpay climbed 4.19 per cent after a 2.5 per cent rise in US suitor Square overnight. Appen gained 2.74 per cent, Technology One 4.27 per cent and Nearmap 4.44 per cent.

EML soared 31.27 per cent after Ireland’s financial regulator cleared the way for the payments provider to expand. The company’s shares slumped to a pandemic-era low in May after the Central Bank of Ireland raised concerns about compliance with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism legislation. The bank advised EML’s Irish subsidiary it now has permission to sign up new customers and launch new programs within agreed growth restrictions.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare climbed 4.6 per cent to a six-month high after reporting transport cost pressures were beginning to abate. The sleep apnea specialist’s operating revenue declined 1 per cent over the first half. Net profits fell 2 per cent to $221.8 million.  

“Elevated freight costs and air freight utilisation continued but were lower than the same period last year, impacting gross margin by approximately 190 basis points compared to pre-COVID-19 levels,” the company said.

Engineering and construction group NRW expects to hit the upper end of full-year guidance following a strong first-half, CEO Jules Pemberton told today’s AGM. First-half earnings of $70-$75 million put the group on track for a full-year result near $155 million. The share price jumped 8.44 per cent.

Furniture retailer Adairs rose 4.09 per cent after snapping up rival Focus on Furniture for $80 million. Focus has a network of 23 stores and an online channel. Adairs expects the acquisition to be immediately earnings per share accretive.

Doghouse

The heavyweight banks capped today’s advance as the financial sector fell to its weakest close in almost three months. The sector fell out of bed last week after CBA’s quarterly earnings revealed the impact of competition for home loans.

CBA dropped 1.45 per cent, Macquarie Group 0.72 per cent, Westpac 0.78 per cent and ANZ 0.87 per cent. AMP shed 5 per cent.

NAB dipped 0.46 per cent after the ACCC waved through the bank’s acquisition of Citigroup’s Australian consumer business. The regulator found the transaction would not substantially lessen competition.

Kogan sank 4.17 per cent to an 18-month low after shareholders rejected the retailer’s remuneration plans a second time. Earlier, founder and CEO Ruslan Kogan told shareholders the firm aims to increase gross annual sales from $1 billion last financial year to $5 billion in FY23.

Mobile app developer Life360 slid 8.34 per cent after raising $280 million at a discount to buy US software maker Tile for up to US$205 million ($282.8 million).

Biotech Radiopharm Theranostics made an inauspicious debut as a listed company, losing a third of its market value. Shares in the cancer treatment hopeful dived 33.33 per cent to 40 cents.

Nufarm eased 2.31 per cent as its shares traded ex-dividend.

Other markets

Asian markets mostly improved in afternoon trade. The Asia Dow rose 0.29 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.12 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 0.75 per cent. China’s Shanghai Composite dipped 0.1 per cent.

US futures rose in light holiday trade. S&P 500 futures firmed 14 points or 0.3 per cent.

Gold climbed in the wake of this morning’s Federal Reserve minutes, advancing US$7.60 or 0.43 per cent to US$1,791.90 an ounce.

Oil marked time. Brent crude was up a cent or 0.01 per cent at US$81.06 a barrel.

The dollar edged off a two-month low, rising 0.02 per cent to 72.03 US cents.

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