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Aussie shares touched their highest level in a month before easing as traders locked in profits in some of the market rebound’s best recovery plays.

Trading in one of the tightest ranges since the pandemic downturn began, the S&P/ASX 200 briefly broke above 5500 for the first time since mid-March before fading to a mid-session loss of 36 points or 0.7 per cent.

At this morning’s peak, the benchmark index had rebounded 1,130 points or 25.7 per cent since its nadir on March 23. Overnight, the S&P 500 in the US jumped 88 points or 3.06 per cent to extend its bounce from its bear market low to 27.5 per cent. The US rally came as state and federal government officials signalled they were working towards lifting lockdown restrictions imposed to arrest the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today’s opening surge in Australia faltered as US index futures declined.  S&P 500 index futures were recently down 23 points or 0.8 per cent despite news this morning that the White House had reached a deal to bail out the airline industry and government officials had drafted a plan to reopen parts of the country.

Here, modest gains in consumer and tech stocks were overwhelmed by declines in energy, miners and banks. The worst performers on the index were companies that have mounted strong rebounds over the last month. One-stop business travel firm Corporate Travel Management sagged 9 per cent, European shopping centre owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield 8.8 per cent, internet lottery business Jumbo Interactive 6.3 per cent and travel agent Flight Centre 4.8 per cent.

The energy sector ran hard last week in anticipation of a deal to cut global crude production, but came off this morning amid scepticism that a 10 per cent reduction in supply is sufficient when demand has reportedly collapsed by as much as 30 per cent. Brent crude dropped 6.7 per cent overnight to a two-week low. Beach Energy declined 7.2 per cent, Cooper Energy 4.2 per cent, Santos 4.2 per cent and Woodside 3.6 per cent. Elsewhere on the resources spectrum, BHP fell 1.8 per cent, Rio Tinto 1.5 per cent and Fortescue 0.8 per cent. Gold miner Newcrest edged up 1.2 per cent.

The financial sector shrugged off a profit warning from Westpac yesterday, but succumbed to gravity this morning. CBA shed 1.1 per cent, ANZ 0.4 per cent, NAB 0.1 per cent and Westpac 1.3 per cent.

Seven West Media has been on a powerful two-day tear since announcing the sale of its magazine group to Bauer Media will proceed. Shares that traded at 6.2 cents before Easter surged another 25 per cent this morning to 10.5 cents.

The consumer staples sector bucked the overall market trend, rising 0.3 per cent as rallies in milk companies A2 and Synlait helped offset declines of 0.1 per cent in Woolworths and 1.8 per cent in Coca-Cola Amatil. The tech sector was boosted by gains in Bravura Solutions +5.8 per cent, Computershare +4.1 per cent and Altium +3.6 per cent.

Consumer confidence suffered its biggest decline in the 47-year history of the Westpac-Melbourne Institute survey. The confidence gauge dived 17.7 per cent this month to levels witnessed during the 1982 recession. A question on employment indicated roughly a fifth of workers had either been sacked or stood down without pay.

Asian markets saw red. China’s Shanghai Composite shed 0.1 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.2 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 0.6 per cent.

Brent crude pared overnight losses, rising 40 cents or 1.4 per cent this morning to $US30 a barrel. Gold dipped $19.60 or 1.1 per cent to $US1,749.20 an ounce.

The dollar slid 0.5 per cent to 64.06 US cents.

What’s hot today and what’s not:

Hot today: Investors in Predictive Discovery (ASX:PDI) enjoyed a day to remember after the African gold junior announced a significant discovery at its Kaniko project in Guinea. The share price briefly ran up more than 1,000 per cent from half a cent to 6.3 cents on news the drillbit had hit a broad zone containing high-grade gold intercepts. Managing Director Paul Roberts said, “Many of the holes either started or stopped in gold mineralisation, which is therefore open both at depth and to the east and west on most drill lines… There is plenty of scope to growth this further with more drilling.” The share price was last up 900 per cent at 5 cents.

Not today: One of the big questions facing traders is when to take profits on the big winners from the pandemic. Zoono Group (ASX:ZNO) was one of the earliest runners after announcing its hand sanitiser was effective against the virus. The share price, which almost doubled following that announcement, faded 6.5 per cent today. Meal kit home-delivery service Marley Spoon (ASX:MMM) saw its share price more than quadruple after it revealed a surge in demand from people stuck at home. The share price retreated 8.9 per cent this morning. Biotech Cellmid (ASX:CDY), which has imported testing kits, dropped 9.8 per cent.

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