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The share market unwound yesterday’s gains after US index futures were knocked lower by a White House report indicating coronavirus cases were increasing in many parts of the US.

The S&P/ASX 200 fell 73 points or 1.3 per cent to 5389, erasing yesterday’s rally and turning the index negative for the week.

The retreat gathered pace after hopes for a rapid US recovery were dented by a report from the White House’s coronavirus taskforce that undermined President Donald Trump’s claim COVID-19 infections were tumbling “all throughout the country”. The report showed surges in infection rates in inland metropolitan areas far away from initial coastal hotspots. Fears of a second wave of infections around the globe were sharpened by news of a new outbreak in Wuhan. S&P 500 index futures swooned 24 points or 0.8 per cent.

Today’s session was a mirror image of yesterday, with the defensive health and consumer staples sectors back in vogue and the riskiest, most COVID-affected companies leading the retreat. Gains in the likes of Coles (+1.1 per cent), ResMed (+5.6 per cent) and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare (+1.8 per cent) were outweighed by sharp declines in Myer (-14.3 per cent), Webjet (-8.6 per cent), Corporate Travel (-7.2 per cent), and Flight Centre (-6.9 per cent).

At a sector level, resource stocks took the heaviest hit after commodity prices were depressed by a rally in the US dollar. Both energy and materials shed 2.3 per cent. Origin Energy gave up 3.8 per cent, BHP 3.2 per cent, Fortescue 3.1 per cent, Santos 2.8 per cent, Woodside 1.6 per cent and Rio Tinto 1.6 per cent.

CSR was the standout on the main index. Shares in the building products supplier jumped 9.5 per cent after the company reported the pandemic had minimal impact on Australian production or revenue. The company reported a full-year net profit after tax of $125.3 million. Industrial explosives manufacturer Incitec Pivot slumped 5.3 per cent after raising $600 million from institutional investors.

Premier Investments edged up 1 per cent after announcing it would start to reopen stores shuttered during the pandemic. The retailer operates a host of brands, including Just Jeans, Portmans, Dotti, Smiggle, Peter Alexander and Jay Jays. Kogan flew up 7 per cent to its highest level since June 2018 as the switch to online shopping helped the online retailer increase sales by more than 100 per cent and gross profit by more than 150 per cent.   

CBA was the pick of the banks with a fall of 1.2 per cent. ANZ shed 1.9 per cent, NAB 2.7 per cent and Westpac 2.3 per cent.

The grim mood among the nation’s businessmen improved a fraction last month but remained near historically weak levels. NAB’s confidence index ticked up to -46 from a March reading of -65. Business conditions deteriorated to -34 from -22.

“Confidence saw a rebound in April, but this provides little comfort given it remains around twice as weak as the 1990s recession,” Alan Oster, NAB group chief economist, said. “Business conditions declined further in the month, with a broad-based deterioration across industries.” 

A soft morning on Asian markets saw China’s Shanghai Composite fall 0.1 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 1.5 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 0.2 per cent.

Brent crude bounced 17 cents or 0.6 per cent this morning to $US29.80 a barrel. Gold inched up 50 cents or less than 0.1 per cent to $US1,698.50 an ounce.

The dollar was lately off 0.7 per cent at 64.43 US cents.

What’s hot today and what’s not:

Hot today: Pet owners know only too well the cost of treating the family pet in later life. Hence the excitement this morning when PharmAust (ASX:PAA) announced progress with a pill for treating cancer in dogs. A phase II clinical trial of Monepantel showed “anti-cancer activity in dogs with lymphoma”, according to principal investigator Dr Claire Cannon. The share price charged from 10 cents to 17.5 before easing back to 12 cents, a gain of 20 per cent.

Not today: Tech darling Altium (ASX: ALU) suffered a setback after the software developer warned it expected virus lockdowns to impact its performance in the final quarter of the financial year. CEO Aram Mirkazemi said the need for small to medium businesses to preserve cash would delay sales in May and June, traditionally the company’s strongest months. ALU shares had bounced 50 per cent from their pandemic lows, but this morning eased 4.4 per cent.

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