Record night on Wall Street to boost ASX

Shares rallied towards a record close after a round of grim economic data kept the pressure on the Reserve Bank to lower rates.

The ASX 200 surged 35 points or 0.5 per cent to 6881 by mid-session, shy of Friday's all-time high, but well above Thursday's record close at 6864.

The market gathered momentum as weak economic signals drove investors into bond proxies that traditionally outperform in times of low interest rates. A slew of reports on the first trading day of the new month showed declines in company operating profits, building approvals and job advertising, cranking up pressure on the RBA to do more to support the economy.

Utilities and health stocks that offer solid dividends led the advance. Energy infrastructure firm APA Group rose 2.9 per cent and AGL Energy 0.7 per cent to a four-month peak. The run of records continued for CSL and Cochlear, both rising 1 .2 per cent.   

Macquarie Group joined the health giants at an all-time high, advancing 0.4 per cent during a morning of solid gains in the financial sector. CBA put on 1.1 per cent, ANZ 1.2 per cent, NAB 0.2 per cent and Westpac 0.9 per cent. Telstra edged up 0.4 per cent towards a third gain in four sessions.

The supermarkets - another source of regular dividend payments - also traded near highs. Coles tacked on 1.2 per cent. Woolworths added 0.1 per cent despite news that a Canberra law firm plans to launch a class action over salary shortfalls.

A soft end to last week on commodity markets capped resource stocks. Gold miner Newcrest slid 2.2 per cent, Oil Search 1.6 per cent, South32 1.1 per cent and Santos 0.9 per cent. BHP reversed early losses, adding 0.3 per cent. Rio Tinto gained 0.8 per cent.

Corporate profits slumped 0.8 per cent over the first three months of the financial year, the first decline in two years. Building approvals decreased  8.1 per cent during October. Job ads fell 1.7 per cent last month. The dollar gained a tenth of a cent at 67.72 US cents.

A positive morning on Asian markets, where China's Shanghai Composite gained 0.2 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng 0.3 per cent and Japan's Nikkei 1 per cent. S&P 500 index futures rose eight points or almost 0.3 per cent.

US crude rebounded sharply this morning, but the international benchmark was little changed.  West Texas Intermediate rallied 83 cents or 1.5 per cent to $US56 a barrel. Brent crude inched up a cent or 0.02 per cent to $US62.43 a barrel. Gold reversed $5.80 or 0.4 per cent to $US1,466.90 an ounce.

What's hot today and what's not:

Hot today: niche industrial stock K-Tig hit a six-week high on news the company has secured an eight-year licensing deal for its welding technology with Singapore firm Steel-Ti Precision Welding. Steel-Ti becomes the first South-East Asian client for the company's disruptive welding-as-a-service model. K-Tog claims the technology allows user to weld up to 100 time faster than with traditional methods. The share price was last up 10.3 per cent.

Not today: the bubble in medicinal cannabis stocks has well and truly burst amid signs of oversupply and after the US Foods and Drug Administration warned of the potential dangers of cannabidiol. The local sector has followed global peers lower over recent months as companies downgraded expansion plans. Investors took a big stick to Creso Pharma this morning, sending the share price down 26.3 per cent to a record low after a takeover offer from Canadian outfit PharmaCielo fell through and the company raised funds at a discount.


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