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Aussie stocks shook off a day of capital raises and banking losses to surge ahead as local COVID-19 outlook lightens up.

It was a tough morning down under, despite a strong weekend close on Wall Street, and investors were bracing for another red day before lunchtime.

However, a mid-afternoon surge saw the benchmark ASX 200 index climb 1.5 per cent higher to close at 5321.40 points — taking us back to near where we were at the start of last week.

With the COVID-19 infection curve well and truly flattened over April, hope is beginning to bubble. Last week, WA had four days with zero new cases. In the past 24 hours, New South Wales, where the majority of Australian cases have been recorded, has just two new infections. Over the weekend, four states and territories recorded zero new cases over a 24-hour period.

Further, WA restrictions are slightly easing, with up to 10 people able to gather in a group as of today. Restrictions in Queensland are due to be similarly loosened next week. There is even talk of WA re-opening its interstate travel borders in the new future.

Though it’s likely that on a global scale the worst is yet to come, Australian punters took well to the string of good news over the weekend.

The struggling finance sector was not able to subdue the ASX for long today. NAB surprised shareholders by releasing its half-year results early to reveal a dramatic reduction in earnings, a suspended interim dividend, 1000 lost jobs, and a $3.5 billion capital raise. In the report, the banking giant predicted a recession and a high level of unemployment through to 2021.

While NAB sat still in a trading halt, the rest of our big four felt the impact of the bleak financial outlook. ANZ lost 2.31 per cent and Westpac lost a hefty 4.37 per cent. Commonwealth Bank closed grey.

However, not even recession talks were enough to keep investors spooked for long today, with all other sectors of our ASX closing green.

Technology stocks were among our top performers today. Xero gained 4.93 per cent, Afterpay gained 2.74 per cent, and Computershare gained 2.46 per cent. Altium took the cake with a 6.1 per cent increase.

Healthcare stocks weren’t far behind, however, spurred on by a nifty 6.05 per cent gain from Sonic Healthcare. Ramsay followed suit with a 3.7 per cent gain. Biotech giant CSL gained 2.63 per cent.

Meanwhile, our heavyweight materials sector kept things steady despite losses from our big iron ore producers. The price of iron ore declined today, taking BHP to a 0.13 per cent loss. Rio Tinto lost 0.31 per cent, but Fortescue Metals outperformed and gained 0.09 per cent.

Nevertheless, it was once more gold’s time to shine. Northern Star Resources offset the sector’s losses with a 2.96 per cent gain. Evolution Mining and Saracen Mineral Holdings gained 2.9 per cent and 3.64 per cent, respectively.

Over east, Asian markets were green all over. When the ASX closing bell sounded, the Asia Dow was sitting 2.47 per cent higher, Japan’s Nikkei 225 2.77 per cent higher, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 1.91 per cent higher.

As for our local currency, it’s green for the Aussie dollar today, too. Currently, one dollar buys 64.58 US cents, 51.87 pence, 12.18 South African rand.

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