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The share market neared a pandemic-era peak as gains in the big miners helped offset disappointing trading updates from Woolworths and Fortescue Metals.

The S&P/ASX 200 rose as high as 7093.4, within a point and a half of a 14-month high. By mid-session, the index had moderated its advance to 25 points or 0.35 per cent at 7089.7.

What’s driving the market

Coles, CSL, Afterpay and the major miners provided much of the morning’s momentum. Woolworths and Fortescue dragged following underwhelming quarterly reports.

Woolworths sank and rival Coles rallied after Woolies announced Q3 supermarket sales declined more than analysts expected. Sales fell 2.1 per cent to $11.1 billion, more than twice the retreat predicted by analysts as the Covid sales bump wore off.

“In general, customer shopping behaviours continue to normalise,” CEO Brad Banducci said. “While food customers are still shopping less frequently, the growth in the number of items customers put in their baskets is slowing.”

Woolworths shares slumped 3.48 per cent to a one-month low. Coles climbed 3.19 per cent to a two-month high. IGA operator Metcash sank 2.4 per cent.

Fortescue Metals dipped 0.46 per cent after reporting an increase in cost of production, partly attributed to the strengthening dollar and seasonally lower volumes. The miner reaffirmed full-year production and cost guidance.

The market shrugged off a soft close on Wall Street as US futures responded to strong after-market updates from market behemoths Apple and Facebook this morning. S&P 500 futures rallied 25 points or 0.59 per cent, hinting at gains tonight. Apple shares rose 2.34 per cent in extended night trade. Facebook shares surged 6.15 per cent.

Overnight, the major US indices closed lower after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell suggested financial markets looked “frothy”. Losses ranged from 0.08 per cent for the S&P 500 to 0.48 per cent for the Dow.

Going up

Newcrest shrugged off a 4 per cent dip in gold production last quarter, putting on 2.41 per cent after reaffirming full-year guidance and reducing costs at its Cadia mine.

“Our world-class Cadia asset set a new record during the March 2021 quarter, reporting its lowest ever quarterly All-In Sustaining Cost of negative $160/oz. This record, along with unit cost reductions at all other sites, delivered a 7% reduction in our All-In Sustaining Cost per ounce for the quarter and a strong All-In Sustaining Cost margin of $854/oz,” Managing Director and CEO Sandeep Biswas said.

Resolute Mining also reaffirmed full-year guidance after pouring 350,000 – 375,000 ounces of gold. The company’s share price rose 4.84 per cent. Regis Resources climbed 3.28 per cent after maintaining guidance and generating revenue of $135.7 million last quarter

Aside from Fortescue, the major miners took a dip in the price of iron ore in their stride. BHP rose 1.14 per cent. Rio Tinto added 0.94 per cent. Woodside Petroleum climbed 1.06 per cent after crude rose to a six-week peak.

Other significant moves at the top of the tree included CSL +0.94 per cent, Transurban +0.79 per cent and Telstra +0.15 per cent. Afterpay gained 2.05 per cent after announcing a partnership with digital banking group Novatti for a payment card program in New Zealand. Novatti shares surged 26.53 per cent.

Wealth manager IOOF inched up 0.14 per cent after funds under management by $1.5 billion to $203.9 billion. The firm also reported outflows of $2.1 billion due to financial advisers departing during a structural shake-up. The company aims to cut its advisory network by 140.

Going down

A flat morning for the banks saw Westpac fall 0.08 per cent, ANZ 0.07 per cent and NAB 0.06 per cent. CBA inched up 0.16 per cent. Wesfarmers shed 1.36 per cent and Goodman Group 0.08 per cent.

Newcomer Nuix was the index’s worst performer after missing targets in its prospectus. Shares in the analytical software group sank 6.67 per cent to a new low. Seven West Media fell 4 per cent, Nufarm 3.01 per cent and Janus  Henderson 3 per cent.

Other markets

Asian markets took their cues from US futures. The Asia Dow rallied 0.47 per cent. China’s Shanghai Composite gained 0.27 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.92 per cent. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.

Oil built on last night’s six-week high. Brent crude put on another 47 cents or 0.7 per cent at US$67.25 a barrel.

Gold extended its post-Federal Reserve policy update recovery, rising $13.90 or 0.78 per cent to US$1,787.80 an ounce.

The dollar edged up 0.02 per cent to 78.03 US cents.

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