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Aussie shares drifted lower for the third time in four sessions as gains for iron ore miners were outweighed by pressure from the banks.

The S&P/ASX 200 wilted 12 points or 0.16 per cent by mid-session. The decline pulled the index nine points into the red for the week.

A rally in iron ore back above US$100 a tonne lifted Fortescue Metals to a two-month high. The major banks declined as a rally in interest rates stuttered.

What’s driving the market

The market has struggled for direction this week as Wall Street churned ahead of tonight’s Thanksgiving holiday. US equity exchanges close tonight and re-open on Friday for a thinly-traded half-session.

The major US indices closed mixed overnight for a third straight session. A pause in rallying yields brought relief for growth stocks. The Nasdaq Composite firmed 0.44 per cent. The S&P 500 gained 0.23 per cent. The Dow dipped 0.03 per cent.

Shorn of clear leads, the ASX muddled lower. The heavyweight banks were largely responsible as the financial sector eased 0.6 per cent to its weakest in almost three months. The sector fell out of bed last week after CBA’s quarterly earnings revealed the impact of competition for home loans.

CBA dropped 1.01 per cent, Macquarie Group 0.75 per cent, Westpac 0.46 per cent and ANZ 0.44 per cent. AMP shed 3.64 per cent.

NAB dipped 0.21 per cent after the ACCC waved through the bank’s acquisition of Citigroup’s Australian consumer business. The regulator found the transaction would not substantially lessen competition.

A week-long recovery in iron ore prices kept the mining majors on the upswing. Fortescue Metals climbed 1.79 per cent, Rio Tinto 1.18 per cent and BHP 0.68 per cent.

Going up

A relief rally lifted the tech sector following three days of rates pressure. Afterpay climbed 2.9 per cent after a 2.5 per cent rise in US suitor Square overnight. WiseTech gained 1.93 per cent, Technology One 2.96 per cent and Megaport 2.45 per cent.

EML soared 24 per cent after Ireland’s financial regulator cleared the way for the payments provider to expand. The company’s shares slumped to a pandemic-era low in May after the Central Bank of Ireland raised concerns about compliance with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism legislation. The bank advised EML’s Irish subsidiary it now has permission to sign up new customers and launch new programs within agreed growth restrictions.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare climbed 3.59 per cent to a six-month high after reporting transport cost pressures were beginning to abate. The sleep apnea specialist’s operating revenue declined 1 per cent over the first half. Net profits fell 2 per cent to $221.8 million.  

“Elevated freight costs and air freight utilisation continued but were lower than the same period last year, impacting gross margin by approximately 190 basis points compared to pre-COVID-19 levels,” the company said.

Engineering and construction group NRW expects to hit the upper end of full-year guidance following a strong first-half, CEO Jules Pemberton told shareholders at today’s AGM. First-half earnings of $70-$75 million put the group on track for a full-year result near $155 million. The share price jumped 10.16 per cent.

Furniture retailer Adairs rose 6.73 per cent after snapping up rival Focus on Furniture for $80 million. Focus has a network of 23 stores and an online channel. Adairs expects the acquisition to be immediately earnings per share accretive.

Kogan firmed 0.23 per cent as founder and CEO Ruslan Kogan told shareholders the online retailer aims to increase gross annual sales from $1 billion last financial year to $5 billion in FY23.

Going down

Travel agents continued to fade under the threat of renewed lockdowns in Europe. Webjet dropped 0.88 per cent. Flight Centre shed 0.82 per cent.

Mobile app developer Life360 slid 8.42 per cent after raising $280 million at a discount to buy US software maker Tile for up to US$205 million ($282.8 million).

Biotech Radiopharm Theranostics made an inauspicious debut as a listed company, quickly losing more than a quarter of its market value. Shares in the cancer treatment hopeful dived 28.75 per cent.

Nufarm eased 1.57 per cent as its shares traded ex-dividend.

Other markets

Asian markets traded mixed but mostly flat. The Asia Dow dipped 0.05 per cent. China’s Shanghai Composite gained 0.05 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.24 per cent. Japan’s Nikkei put on 0.75 per cent.

US futures rose in light holiday trade. S&P 500 futures firmed eight points or 0.16 per cent.

Oil reversed overnight weakness. Brent crude rose 21 US cents or 0.26 per cent to US$81.26 a barrel.

Gold climbed in the wake of this morning’s Federal Reserve minutes, advancing US$7 or 0.4 per cent to US$1,791.30 an ounce.

The dollar edged off a two-month low, rising 0.04 per cent to 72.04 US cents.

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