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A lacklustre session saw Australian shares modestly higher mid-session as gains in property and energy stocks outweighed declines in some of the heavyweight banks and miners.

The S&P/ASX 200 inched up 11 points or 0.16 per cent, thanks to advances in Goodman Group, Woodside, CSL, NAB and CBA. Afterpay, Rio Tinto and BHP were among the biggest drags

The advance positioned the market for its third gain in four sessions this week as a panic about rising borrowing costs continued to fade.

What’s driving the market

The local market shrugged off negative leads for a second day, but pared its advance as key Asian markets opened lower. A rebound in oil helped energy stocks. Bond proxies rallied despite an uptick in yields. The heavyweight banks and miners traded mixed.    

Risk appetite remained weak. The S&P/ASX Emerging Companies Index of speculative companies fell 0.2 per cent towards a fifth straight loss. The Small Ords dropped 0.4 per cent.

An accelerating tech sell-off drove US stocks into the red overnight. The Nasdaq Composite shed 2.01 per cent as Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft declined. The broader S&P 500 shed 0.55 per cent and the Dow a skinny 0.01 per cent as cyclical stocks were cushioned by an upbeat economic outlook from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.

“There’s going to be a very, very strong year in the most likely case,” Powell told a congressional committee. “There are of course risks to the upside and downside, but it should be a very strong year from a growth standpoint.”

Going up

Energy stocks rebounded after a shipping mishap in the Suez Canal triggered  sharp recovery in crude. Brent crude bounced 6 per cent overnight after a container ship got stuck in a key transit lane for around 10 per cent of the world’s oil. Santos gained 0.6 per cent and Woodside 1 per cent.

Healthcare, utilities and real estate investment trusts were lifted by yesterday’s three-week low in bond yields. Sonic Healthcare added 2.6 per cent, Goodman Group 1.2 per cent, CSL 1.2 per cent, AGL 1.1 per cent and APA 0.7 per cent. Wesfarmers gained 0.6 per cent.

NAB  was the best of the banks, rising 0.8 per cent, ahead of CBA +0.5 per cent. ANZ was unchanged. Westpac remained under a cloud, falling 0.6 per cent. Macquarie Group climbed 0.7 per cent.

A slim 0.1 per cent advance made Fortescue the pick of the iron ore majors. BHP dropped 0.4 per cent and Rio Tinto 1.6 per cent. Gold miner Newcrest tacked on 0.8 per cent.

Washington H Soul Pattinson hit an all-time high after increasing group profit by 35 per cent to $68.9 million. Chairman Robert Millner said the investment house’s diversified portfolio of assets had performed well during the pandemic. The share price climbed 3.6 per cent.

A 22 per cent increase in statutory half-year net profit to $71 million helped lift Brickworks 4.4 per cent. The brick manufacturer said a drop in North American earning had been offset by a 60 per cent surge in Australian earnings.

Going down

A tech-led rout in the US infected the domestic sector. Afterpay sank 2.9 per cent to its lowest level in more than two weeks. Nuix shed 3.3 per cent, Appen 3.2 per cent and Megaport 2.2 per cent.

Coles and Transurban were among drags at the top end, falling 0.9 and 0.1 per cent, respectively.

Resolute plunged 22.2 per cent after the Ghanaian government unexpectedly terminated the lease for the miner’s Bibiani gold mine. The company was in the process of selling the mine for US$105 million to Chinese miner Chifeng Jilong. Resolute said it would take legal advice and seek clarification from the government.

Insurer Suncorp dropped 0.5 per cent after reporting it had received 5,400 claims across the three eastern states following days of extreme rain and flooding. QBE dropped 0.6 per cent. IAG inched up 0.5 per cent.

Gravity took hold of recently-listed services platform Airtasker. Shares that listed at 65 cents on Tuesday hit $1.97 this morning before profit-taking set in, dragging the share price down 16 per cent to $1.47.

A2M Milk sank 3 per cent to a three-year low. The dairy company’s share price has fallen steadily since the pandemic undermined its Daigou sales model.

Other markets

The Asia Dow fell 0.13 per cent as key markets declined for a second day. China’s Shanghai Composite dropped 0.36 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 1.04 per cent. Japan’s Nikkei trimmed its advance to 0.37 per cent.

US futures unwound early gains as Asian markets deteriorated. S&P 500 futures reset to flat after being up 0.2 per cent. Nasdaq futures fell 0.2 per cent.  

Oil trimmed last night’s 6 per cent rebound. Brent crude fell $1.01 or 1.6 per cent to US$63.23 a barrel. Gold rose $1 or 0.1 per cent to US$1,734.20 an ounce.

The dollar rallied 0.07 per cent to 75.92 US cents.

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