The share market inched towards a fresh six-month high in subdued trade during the US Thanksgiving holiday.
At mid-session, the S&P/ASX 200 was on track for a fourth day of gains after rising 21 points or 0.3 per cent to 7263.
The Australian benchmark was also in line for its fourth winning week in five since central banks began to pull the brakes on interest rate increases.
Rallies this morning in consumer stocks, tech companies and traditional defensives helped offset declines in miners and energy producers.
What’s driving the market
The holiday mood in the US this week has proved infectious, helping propel stock benchmarks in Europe and Australia to multi-month highs. Overnight, the pan-European Stoxx 600 index climbed 0.46 per cent to its strongest finish in four months.
ASX trading volumes have been below average all week, but that has not stopped the local benchmark grinding to its highest since late May. Notably, investors have paid little heed to record Covid figures in key trading partner China. Daily infection rates hit a new peak yesterday above 31,000 new cases, prompting further restrictions in several parts of the country.
“The ASX has hit a multi-month high, but the good thing is that these levels have not been achieved in a single session,” Kunal Sawhney, CEO of research group Kalkine, said.
“The Australian equity benchmark is witnessing fairly consistent growth, with investors focusing on growth stocks and sectors to add a little bit in every trading session.”
The improving outlook for global interest rates has been a key factor in the change in market sentiment since September, Sawhney said.
“The biggest driver is the expectation that central banks are about to soften their stance in future monetary policy meetings. Inflation in the US has dropped a little, and Fed’s November meeting minutes hint at a reduced pace of hikes. These were enough to boost the sentiments of investors wanting to take calculated risks.”
US futures remained positive when trade resumed this morning in the lead-up to tonight’s session. The New York Stock Exchange will reopen for a truncated session, ending at 1 pm.
S&P 500 futures firmed eight points or 0.2 per cent. Nasdaq futures gained 43 points or 0.36 per cent.
Retail stocks rallied in anticipation of a Black Friday sales boost. Harvey Norman climbed 3.6 per cent. Super Retail Group firmed 2.06 per cent. JB Hi Fi added 2.05 per cent, Wesfarmers 1.35 per cent and Premier Investments 1.03 per cent.
Tech stocks rose for a second session since the US Federal Reserve flagged a possible slowdown in rate hikes, driving the cost of long-term borrowing lower. Megaport gained 3.3 per cent, Technology One 2.31 per cent and NextDC 2.31 per cent.
Payments platform EML surged 11.32 per cent as the prospect of a strategic pivot overshadowed news of a 5 per cent decline in revenue last quarter compared to the prior corresponding period. CEO and Managing Director Emma Shand told today’s AGM the firm was embarked on a three-to-five year transformation plan to capitalise on a global shift to open banking.
Nanosonics continued to recover from last week’s AGM meltdown, rising 8.65 per cent. Virgin Money UK climbed 4.76 per cent to a seven-month high.
Construction contractor Maas Group (MGH) gained 6.4 per cent after announcing its entry into the Victorian construction materials market. The firm will acquire Dandy Premix, a construction materials business based in Melbourne, for $85 million in cash and shares.
“This acquisition represents a significant step in the expansion of our construction materials business, establishing a new hub for MGH in Victoria,” Managing Director and CEO Wes Maas said.
Natural health supplements firm Blackmores rallied 0.67 per cent. Chair Anne Templeman-Jones announced she will stand down after steering the company through the pandemic and associated supply-chain disruptions. Independent director Wendy Stops will move into the chair.
At the pointy end of the market, Goodman Group gained 1.7 per cent, Telstra 1.4 per cent and Woolworths 0.96 per cent. The big four banks put on between 0.54 and 0.91 per cent.
BHP dropped 1.08 per cent after Reuters reported workers at the Escondida copper mine in Chile rejected the miner’s latest offer. Miners may strike as soon as Monday after the union deemed revised security measures proposed by BHP “insufficient”.
Rio Tinto shed 0.8 per cent. Fortescue Metals lost 0.76 per cent.
Energy stocks retreated as oil hovered near eight-week lows. Woodside Energy gave up 0.73 per cent. Santos dipped 0.34 per cent.
Battery metal companies were among the morning’s worst performers despite a 0.45 per cent bounce in a UK-listed lithium and battery tech ETF overnight. On Wednesday, the UK version of the Global X fund fell to its lowest level since May.
Allkem lost 6.94 per cent. Liontown Resources shed 6.01 per cent. Pilbara Minerals dropped 5.54 per cent, Mineral Resources 3.78 per cent and Core Lithium 4.95 per cent.
Plus-size clothing retailer City Chic Collective plunged 26.44 per cent when today’s AGM heard global revenues were down two per cent year to date. The firm’s US trade fell 12 per cent year on year. Gross margins contracted 4 per cent, primarily due to soft demand in the northern hemisphere.
A mixed session on Asian markets saw the Asia Dow slip 0.56 per cent, China’s Shanghai Composite drop 0.12 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei shed 0.16 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.07 per cent.
Brent crude bounced 11 US cents or 0.13 per cent to US$85.35 a barrel.
Gold was broadly steady at US$1,755.80 an ounce.
The dollar eased 0.13 per cent to 67.56 US cents.