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Defensive stocks lifted the ASX towards its fourth gain in five sessions as investors hedged against negative shocks on trade and US rates.

The ASX 200 rose 12 points or 0.2 per cent to 6719 by mid-session as the repair-work continued following last week’s 2 per cent dive. The benchmark index has made back roughly half of last week’s losses despite a pause on world markets as investors wait to see whether the US and China strike a trade deal before a Sunday deadline for fresh US tariffs. The S&P 500 dipped three points or 0.11 per cent ahead of tonight’s Federal Reserve monetary policy statement.

Momentum on the local market switched this morning from resource stocks to traditional defensive sectors. Telecoms, gold stocks, utilities and consumer staples made much of the running. Telstra put on 1.1 per cent, Gold Road Resources 3 per cent, Spark Infrastructure 2.4 per cent and Evolution Mining 1.2 per cent.

Consumer stocks shrugged off signs consumers remain pessimistic heading into the Christmas shopping season. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index slipped 1.9 points to 95.1 this month, below the 100-point level where optimists start to outnumber pessimists. Flight Centre gained 1.7 per cent, Aristocrat Leisure 1.6 per cent, Domino’s Pizza 0.9 per cent and Coles 0.3 per cent.

The market lost some of its gains as US index futures reacted to a TV interview with a White House trade adviser. S&P 500 index futures declined four points or more than 0.1 per cent after Peter Navarro told Fox News he had no indication Sunday’s $US156 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese imports would not proceed.

CBA and Westpac were the pick of the banks, rising 0.6 per cent. BHP and Rio Tinto traded sideways after iron ore turned lower.

Asian markets were mixed. China’s Shanghai Composite added 0.1 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.1 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.3 per cent.

Brent crude futures reversed 40 cents or 0.6 per cent this morning to $US63.94 a barrel. Gold edged up 20 cents or less than 0.1 per cent to $US1,468.30 an ounce.

The dollar was steady at 68.12 US cents.

What’s hot today and what’s not:

Hot today: nothing like a whiff of a takeover to set a share price running.  Webjet rallied 9.6 per cent this morning despite downplaying an Australian Financial Review report that Goldman Sachs is hawking the company to prospective buyers. In a statement to the ASX, Webjet said, “From time to time we consider acquisition interest in the business. Should be a proposal be received that was compelling and certain, the company would put it to shareholders. No such proposal exists at present.” Punters noted the qualifying clause “at present” and began buying.

Not today: the newly-listed agricultural technology business Terragen  stumbled out of the starting gate as it began life as a listed company. The company raised $20 million through an initial public offering, but shares traded at that level only briefly before fading to a loss of 15 per cent. Market sentiment towards agricultural offerings is weak at present, with the south-east in the grip of the worst drought in living memory. Terragen aims to address soil health through microbial products that reduce the need for fertilisers and pesticides.

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