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The new financial year began on a positive note as the benchmark index pushed towards back-to-back gains for the first time in a week.

The S&P/ASX 200 has swung wildly over the last five sessions, but reached today’s mid-way mark 29 points or per 0.5 cent ahead following a relatively sedate morning at the big end of the market. The real excitement came at the junior end, where experimental drugmaker Alterity Therapeutics briefly rallied 2,370 per cent (see “What’s hot today” below for more).

Gold miners sparkled after the precious metal hit its highest level in almost nine years overnight. Gold for August delivery settled $19.30 or 1.1 per cent higher at $US1,800.50 an ounce, a level last seen in September 2011. The S&P/ASX index  of gold miners climbed 3.6 per cent as Resolute Mining gained 7.5 per cent, Northern Star 6.2 per cent and Silver Lake 4.7 per cent. Industry giant Newcrest rose 2.3 per cent to its highest level in five months.

Real estate and technology were the morning’s other standouts. Scentre Group put on 5.5 per cent, GPT Group 3.2 per cent and Growthpoint Properties 2.3 per cent. Developer and builder Lendlease fell 2.5 per cent after warning of an unaudited statutory loss of $230 – $240 million after tax.

A bright session for tech stocks saw seven of the top ten companies by market capitalisation advance. Nextdc soared 8.2 per cent after reporting rising demand for its data centre services. Afterpay added 2.8 per cent, Link Administration Holdings 2.7 per cent, Appen 2.1 per cent and Xero 1.3 per cent.

The tech gains followed a strong night for their US counterparts as the Nasdaq outperformed the Dow and S&P 500 with a rise of 1.87 per cent. The Dow put on 0.85 per cent and the S&P 500 1.54 per cent as all three indices wrapped up their best quarters in more than 20 years. The S&P 500 put on almost 20 per cent as it surged back from the March pandemic lows.

Several recovery plays recorded solid gains. Travel agent Flight Centre firmed 4.6 per cent after securing a debt facility of up GBP65 million through a UK program to support companies through the pandemic. Media group Seven West tacked on 12.6 per cent, travel agent Webjet 6.9 per cent, casino group Skycity Entertainment 6.7 per cent, and debt lender Credit Corp 4.6 per cent.

Among the banking heavyweights, Macquarie rose 1.7 per cent, while the big four ranged from a 0.1 per cent loss for CBA to a gain of 1.1 per cent for Westpac. ANZ inched up 0.3 per cent and NAB 1 per cent. BHP added 0.1 per cent, while Rio Tinto shed 0.9 per cent.

A slump in building approvals in May underlined strains in the housing market. The number of dwellings approved declined a seasonally-adjusted 16.4 per cent as approvals to build apartments slumped to an 11-year low.

Asian markets were mixed following a morning of divergent economic signals.  China’s Shanghai Composite and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng both gained 0.5 per cent. Japan’s Nikkei slid 0.1 per cent. S&P 500 index futures dipped eight points or almost 0.3 per cent.

Oil recouped most of its overnight losses following the expiry of the old front-month contract. Brent crude rose 44 cents or 1.1 per cent this morning to $US41.71 a barrel.

The dollar hovered just above 69 US cents, lately ahead 0.1 per cent at 69.09 US cents.

What’s hot today and what’s not:

Hot today: The animal spirits are running wild at the junior end of the market. A day after wireless tech firm Etherstack (ASX:ESK) rocketed 1,358 per cent on news of a deal with South Korean electronics giant Samsung, drugmaker Alterity Therapeutics (ASX:ATH) went several hundred per cent better. Alterity briefly rose 2,370 per cent before paring its gain to a mere 1,782 per cent. The source of today’s excitement was news US regulators had smoothed the developmental path for the company’s experimental treatment for multiple system atrophy, a Parkinsonian disorder for which there is currently no approved treatment. Etherstack briefly doubled its market capitalisation before trimming today’s gain to 58.3 per cent.

Not today: Shareholders in Volt Resources (ASX:VRC) who caught the bottom have seen their investment quadruple since May. The share price suffered a setback today after the Africa-focussed gold and graphite explorer announced it had been forced to extend the closing date of a note offer to raise up to US$30 million through a subsidiary. The company said investors were delaying decisions while they dealt with the fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic. The share price slid 16.7 per cent.

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