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A resilient share market overcame early weakness to rise towards a sixth straight advance as strength in health and tech stocks outweighed mild pressure on miners.

The S&P/ASX 200 dipped 16 points at the open, then built steadily to a mid-session gain of 22 points or 0.3 per cent.

The index has advanced every session this month amid optimism about the prospects for economic recovery once Covid-19 vaccines become available next year. Today’s advance lifted the market back into positive territory for the year.

What’s driving the market

A sluggish session for the heavyweight miners proved no impediment to further gains as a mixed bag of health stocks, tech companies, supermarkets and industrials pushed the market higher. The ASX’s willingness to march to its own beat was underlined by its indifference to a mixed night on Wall Street and weakening US futures.

US stocks stumbled overnight as stimulus negotiations dragged on and California reimposed partial lockdown restrictions. The S&P 500 dipped 0.19 per cent. The Nasdaq Composite put on 0.45 per cent as traders rotated into ‘stay-at-home’ stocks.

“Markets remain in consolidation mode as we await Brexit and US stimulus developments,” NAB Currency Strategist Rodrigo Catril said. “After no breakthrough, PM Johnson and EU Commission President will now meet in person in coming days, so hopes for an EU-UK trade deal survive another day. Meanwhile US Congress bipartisan negotiators are still ongoing on a US$908 billion pandemic relief package.”

US futures deteriorated after New York’s Governor warned NYC might have to halt indoor dining as rising infections threaten to overwhelm the hospital system. S&P 500 index futures slipped ten points or almost 0.3 per cent.

Going up

With the iron ore majors taking a break after a week of near-vertical gains, health giant CSL and the biggest of the big four banks, CBA, kept the market moving forward. CSL put on 1.2 per cent. CBA added 0.9 per cent. Woolworths rose 2.3 per cent, goldminer Newcrest 1.8 per cent and toll road operator Transurban 1.2 per cent.

The rest of the financial sector was mixed. ANZ edged up 0.4 per cent, NAB 0.3 per cent and Macquarie Group 0.2 per cent. Westpac dipped 0.5 per cent a day after announcing it will exit the Fijian and PNG markets.

The tech sector rose 1.3 per cent to its highest level in almost two weeks following a US rotation from value stocks back into growth sectors. Xero advanced 1.9 per cent to a fresh high. Bravura Solutions gained 2.6 per cent and WiseTech 1.9 per cent.

Linen retailer Adairs climbed 5 per cent after reporting  23.4 per cent increase in sales over the first 23 weeks of the financial year. Online sales increased by 99.7 per cent.

Link Administration Holdings jumped 13.7 per cent after a second suitor entered the contest for the superannuation administrator. US-listed SS&C Technology Holdings offered $5.65 a share, trumping a previous bid from Pacific Equity Partners and The Carlyle Group.  

Uranium stocks hovered near multi-year highs after Congress moved closer to establishing a national strategic reserve for the US. Paladin Energy advanced 2.4 per cent to a 30-month peak. Deep Yellow eased 2 per cent from yesterday’s 22-month high.

Woodside Petroleum overcame early weakness following news CEO Peter Coleman will retire next year. Coleman will stand down after more than ten years in the role. Shares in the oil and gas giant were last up 0.2 per cent.

Going down

The iron ore giants took a well-earned rest after a week of heavy lifting. Rio Tinto declined 0.8 per cent, Fortescue Metals 0.4 per cent and BHP 0.2 per cent. Other drags at the business end of the market included Aristocrat Leisure -1.2 per cent, Goodman Group – 0.4 per cent and Telstra -0.2 per cent.

Bank of Queensland slipped 0.3 per cent after updating investors at today’s virtual AGM. The bank said all but 3 per cent of mortgage customers had resumed paying following Covid-19 relief deferrals.

Other markets

Soft US futures weighed on Asian markets. China’s Shanghai Composite opened flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.2 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 0.3 per cent.

Oil fell further from Friday’s nine-month high. Brent crude sagged 25 cents or 0.5 per cent to $US48.54 a barrel. Gold dipped 50 cents or less than 0.1 per cent to $US1,865.50 an ounce.

The dollar inched up 0.05 per cent to 74.19 US cents.

What’s hot today and what’s not

Hot today: Digital health company TALi Digital (ASX:TD1) surged 35.1 per cent after announcing India’s largest media conglomerate, Times Group, as an investor. Times Group will pump up to US$7 million into TALi in exchange for shares. The deal offers TALi a marketing vehicle for its tools for children with learning difficulties.

Not today: G8 Education (ASX:GEM) slumped 6.4 per cent after revealing employee underpayments will set the company back up to $80 million. A review uncovered underpayments dating back six years at the childcare operator. The company self-reported the errors to the Fair Work Ombudsman and initiated a remediation program to be funded from cash reserves.

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