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Aussie investors were bracing for another day defined by oil plunges until a rebound in banking and healthcare stocks repaired some major damage.

After West Texas Intermediate went negative for the first time ever on Monday, last night saw Brent Crude plunge to its lowest level in almost two decades.

As such, weighed down by oil mayhem and a red session on Wall Street, the ASX 200 index lost as much as 2.3 per cent in the first half-hour of trade. However, some positive retail reports injected life into the bleak trading day.

By the time the closing bell sounded, the index had managed to pull itself back up and close just a tenth of a point lower than yesterday at 5221.20.

Interestingly, it was our heavyweight materials sector that was the biggest drag on the ASX today. Our iron ore producers missed out on the recovery as BHP lost 3.59 per cent, Fortescue 1.35 per cent, and Rio Tinto 2.21 per cent.

“Safe haven” gold stocks were mixed as some producers supported the afternoon reversal and others stayed down. Newcrest Mining and Northern Star lost 0.9 and 2.08 per cent, respectively. However, Regis Resources gained 1.45 per cent. Evolution Mining closed grey.

It was the financials sector that spurred the ASX comeback, spurred on by our big four banks. NAB was the pick of the litter today with a 1.66 per cent increase, but the rest weren’t far behind. Commonwealth gained 1.06 per cent, ANZ gained 1.39 per cent, and Westpac gained 1.12 per cent.

Our consumer stocks helped support the rise as strong sales numbers from March trickle in. With buyers still topping up on items they deem essential for a lockdown, money is still flowing to retailers. Woolworths gained 0.78 per cent today, Coles gained 1.13 per cent, and the A2 Milk Company 1.69 per cent.

Meanwhile, a solid 1.69 per cent gain from biotech giant CSL supported an increase in the health care sector. Cochlear followed suit and put on 1.02 per cent — enough to help offset 0.75 per cent and 2.07 per cent respective losses from Fisher and Paykel and Sonic Healthcare.

Over east, it was a mostly green session for Asian stocks when the ASX closed. Aside from the Nikkei 225’s 0.74 per cent decline, the other major Asian indexes were all comfortable green. The Shanghai Composite led the gains as it sat 0.51 per cent higher.

The Aussie dollar is stronger today, currently buying 63.18 US cents, 50.29 pence, and 11.98 South African Rand.

Today’s ups and downs

Junior explorer Lithium Consolidated (ASX:LI3) remained the day’s top winner after finding a large gold anomaly at its WA Warriedar project. The company is planning to set out some drilling targets to test the two-by-five kilometre anomaly, but shareholders liked what they saw. Shares in the company were up over 600 per cent after midday but settled 200 per cent higher at 3.9 cents each.

Meanwhile, graphite producer Syrah Resources (ASX:SYR) shares slumped today as the company reported ongoing production struggles exacerbated by COVID-19 lockdowns in Mozambique and the US. Production from the Balama project has been struggling since September 2019, so the new coronavirus woes add insult to injury. Shares in Syrah closed lower by 4.65 per cent today at 20 cents a pop.

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