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The Santa rally overcame a mid-session wobble to deliver investors a sixth straight rise and a 16-week closing high on the last full trading session of 2021.

The S&P/ASX 200 rallied in the final hour to a slender gain of 3.6 points or 0.05 per cent. The recovery kept intact a winning streak that has added 222 points or 3 per cent over the last week.  

Gains in BHP, Rio Tinto and CBA helped offset declines in utilities and tech and energy stocks.

What moved the market

The end-of-year rally stuttered as a dip in US equity futures encouraged investors to take a little money off the table. S&P 500 futures eased three points or 0.1 per cent.

The futures fade took some of the shine off record highs overnight for the Dow and S&P 500. The blue-chip average rose 0.25 per cent to its 40th record close of 2021. The S&P 500 inched up 0.14 per cent.

A memorable year for investors wraps up with a truncated session tomorrow. The exchange closes at 2.10 pm AEDT (including closing auction) for the New Year break. Trade resumes on Tuesday.

The ASX 200 has put on more than 900 points or 13.9 per cent in 2021. Impressive as that may be, it pales in comparison to gains in the US. The S&P 500 has put on 27.6 per cent and the Dow 19.2 per cent.

“2021 was a terrific year for the equity markets,” Anu Gaggar, global investment strategist at Commonwealth Financial Network, said.

“Between federal stimulus keeping the economy going, easy monetary policy from the Fed keeping markets liquid and interest rates low, and the ongoing medical improvement leading to surprising growth, markets have been in the best of all possible worlds,” she added.

Winners’ circle

Gains in the market’s two largest companies kept the index in the green. BHP put on 0.85 per cent and Commonwealth Bank 0.36 per cent. Support came from Goodman Group +0.82 per cent, Rio Tinto +0.75 per cent, Coles +0.5 per cent and Telstra +0.24 per cent.

Mining stocks were among the day’s best performers. Pilbara Minerals rose 1.89 per cent to a fresh peak. Mineral Resources gained 2.38 per cent. Other standouts included Magellan Financial Group +3.68 per cent, Life360 +2.83 per cent and Nine Entertainment +2.82 per cent.

Bega Cheese climbed 3.19 per cent on news an investment vehicle linked to billionaire Andrew Forrest had taken a stake. Tattarang AgriFood Investments lodged an initial substantial holder notice with the ASX indicating it had acquired 20 million shares or around 6.61 per cent of the dairy company.

Humm Group rose 5.06 per cent following reports Bank of Queensland has engaged Goldman Sachs to advise on a possible acquisition of the buy now, pay later company. Humm announced earlier this month it had been approached by third parties regarding a sale of all or parts of the firm.

Neither company released a statement addressing the reports. BoQ shares dipped 0.36 per cent.

Sandfire Resources climbed 0.91 per cent after Spanish regulators cleared the miner’s US$1.865 billion acquisition of the MATSA copper mine. The transaction is expected to conclude by the end of next month.

“The achievement of these key Government approvals in such a short space of time is a fantastic result, which satisfies all outstanding conditions precedent under the SPA [Sale and Purchase Agreement], clearing the way for this transformational transaction to be completed,” Karl Simich, Sandfire Managing Director and CEO, said.

Panoramic Resources firmed 1.92 per cent after announcing its Savannah nickel project in the East Kimberley shipped its first load to China. A second shipment is planned for February.

Doghouse

The utilities and REIT sectors were among the biggest drags as a host of companies traded ex-dividend. APA Group slid 1.73 per cent, Charter Hall Retail 1.59 per cent and Dexus 1.58 per cent.

Mirvac shed 0.66 per cent and BWP Trust 1.63 per cent. Stockland dropped 1.35 per cent, Waypoint 1.38 per cent and Abacus 0.77 per cent. Toll road operator Transurban gave up 1.15 per cent.

Aside from APA, the session’s worst performers were biotech Imugene -8.05 per cent, student placement service IDP Education -5.14 per cent and gold miner Ramelius -4.11 per cent.

Metals recycler Sims hit a four-month high after selling a majority stake in its New York City recycling business to US investors. Sims will sell 50.46 per cent of Sims Municipal Recycling of New York for $63 million. Shares in the company touched $16.38 before easing 0.62 per cent to $16.14.

Other markets

Most Asian markets improved as the session advanced. The Asia Dow gained 0.05 per cent, China’s Shanghai Composite 0.77 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.21 per cent. Japan’s Nikkei dropped 0.28 per cent.

Brent crude firmed 23 US cents or 0.3 per cent to US$79.44 a barrel.

Gold declined US$5 or 0.3 per cent to US$1,800.80 an ounce.

The dollar edged down 0.02 per cent to 72.57 US cents.

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