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Healthy gains all around as ASX closes strong

After a morning scare, the ASX managed to pare back its losses to close slightly green.

While today's gains are certainly muted, it's as good as investors could hope for after a grim night on Wall Street set global markets up for a tough session.

The benchmark ASX 200 index lost almost 60 points soon after market open, but by the end of the day had soldiered on to close 0.033 per cent green at 6735.70 points.

The energy sector carried the market as growing tension between the U.S. and Iran hiked up crude oil prices. The top energy stocks were able to cash in off the gloomy news of a US drone strike that killed an Iranian military chief. Woodside gained 1.84 per cent and Santos 2.14 per cent. Oil Search was the pick of the litter with a 2.4 per cent rise.

Mining stocks were mixed with BHP gaining 0.64 per cent while Rio Tinto dropped 0.23 per cent. Iron ore producer Fortescue pulled itself up in the last minute to close 0.19 per cent green. The sector's losses, however, were offset by Newcrest's healthy 4 per cent spike which helped the sector close green.

Australia's big banks were an anchor on the market today. Westpac dipped 0.08 per cent, ANZ 0.40 per cent, and Commonwealth Bank slumped 0.67 per cent. NAB was the worst performer of the four with a 0.69 per cent loss.

Health care saw an even mix of red and green resulting in an almost-grey close. CSL closed 0.18 per cent down while Cochlear closed 0.12 per cent up. Even Fisher and Paykel's 1.46 per cent rise was offset by Pro Medicus' 3.19 per cent drop.

Stocks operating in agriculture stumbled as bushfires continue to rage across our eastern states, putting a damper on the consumer staples sector. Freedom Foods slumped 5.04 per cent, Elders 3.09 per cent, and Bega Cheese 9.26 per cent.

Over east, the Shanghai Composite Index was the only splash of green in a sea of red Asian Markets. When the Australian market closed, the Asia Dow was down 1.2 per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng 0.67 per cent. Japan's Nikkei 225 lost 429.87 points and closed 1.82 per cent down.

The Aussie dollar dipped slightly today. Currently, one dollar buys 69.40 US cents, 53.04 pence, and 74.97 Japanese Yen.

Today's ups and downs

Two cannabis stocks had a hay day today. CannPal Animal Therapeutics, which focusses on hemp-derived animal wellbeing products, was the top performer on the ASX. Shares soared 52.17 per cent after the company landed an exclusive global licence with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to commercialise the federal agency's MicroMAX technology in the field of animal therapeutics.

Similarly, medicinal cannabis company Cann Group rose 23.6 per cent before entering a trading halt. The reason for the sudden boost in share price is not certain, but the company said its trading halt relates to an announcement regarding its manufacturing process.

Bega Cheese was hurt the most by ongoing bushfires today. Despite assuring investors no damage was done to its sites in Bega Valley — which has been ravaged by the fires — the dairy industry in the area has taken a hit and Bega's shares are collateral damage. At market close, shares in Bega are down 9.26 per cent and selling for $3.92 each.

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