Shares overcame an early wobble to resume their push towards all-time highs.
The ASX 200 dipped 14 points mid-morning before advancing to a mid-session gain of eight points or 0.1 per cent at 6855. The advance brought the index within a few points of the November record close at 6864.
US-China trade-deal euphoria abated over the last 24 hours. US stocks inched to a fifth straight gain overnight, but the S&P 500‘sfinal tally of a point or 0.03 per cent suggested a market running out of momentum.
A mixed market here saw solid gains in utilities, industrials and energy stocks capped by declines in the heavyweight financial and resource sectors. APA Group led the advance in utilities, rising 2 per cent. Support came from AusNet, up 0.6 per cent, and Spark Infrastructure, up 1.6 per cent. Industrials sector leader Transurban put on 0.9 per cent and Sydney Airport 0.3 per cent.
The energy sector shrugged off a slide in crude prices this morning following news of an unexpectedly large increase in US stockpiles. Brent crude slumped 25 cents or 0.4 per cent to $US65.85 a barrel after the American Petroleum Institute reported US supplies increased by 4.7 million barrels last week. The local energy sector rallied 0.8 per cent to a 14-month high, led by Oil Search, up 3 per cent, and Viva Energy Group, up 1.8 per cent. Santos added 0.7 per cent, Woodside 0.3 per cent.
Westpac‘s woes continued with the launch of a class action alleging the bank failed to meet its continuous disclosure obligations. The bank said it would defend the action served by law firm Phi Finney, which relates to the bank’s alleged failure to comply with anti-money laundering legislation. Shares eased 0.2 per cent. CBA was once again the pick of the big four, rising 0.1 per cent. ANZ fell 0.2 per cent and NAB 0.6 per cent.
Copper miner Oz Minerals skidded 4 per cent after Goldman Sachs slashed its rating to “sell” after the miner hit a seven-year peak yesterday. BHP retreated 0.1 per cent from yesterday’s four-month high, Rio Tinto 1 per cent. Tin miner Metals X was smashed 24.5 per cent to an all-time low after downgrading production guidance and warning it may need to raise funds next year.
At the speculative end of the market, biotech Pharmaxis tumbled 38.5 per cent after its German partner dumped plans to develop the company’s treatment for a strain of fatty liver disease. The company assured investors that the drug still had a path to market for treating other conditions.
markets were mixed but subdued. China’s Shanghai Composite and
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.2 per cent. Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.3 per cent.
S&P 500 index futures were dead flat
Gold dropped 60 cents or less than 0.1 per cent this morning to $US1,4780 an ounce.
The dollar was broadly steady at 68.45 US cents.
What’s hot today and what’s not:
Hot today: Medicinal cannabis company AusCann climbed off three-and-a-half-year lows after announcing plans to develop cannabis capsules. The company said it had successfully manufactured and tested hard-shell capsules, ready for clinical evaluation. The capsules passed criteria set down by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and met international standards and should be available in the first half of next year. Shares jagged up 33.3 per cent to 24 cents.
Not today: adverse weather conditions in the US dragged insurance group QBE off a two-and-half-year peak. The insurer said it would take a profit hit from a cool growing season and the impact of hail on crops. The company expects to pay out more than it took in from selling crop insurance in North America. Shares skidded more than 4 per cent before trimming their loss to 1.1 per cent.