Aussie stocks advanced for a second day as gains in tech and resource stocks offset a mixed morning for the banks.
The ASX 200 rallied 31 points or 0.5 per cent to 6741 by mid-session, exceeding slender gains on Wall Street on Friday. The S&P 500 tacked on seven points or 0.22 per cent after Chinese and US leaders reaffirmed support for a trade deal, and economic data landed stronger than expected. An uptick in US index futures helped sentiment: S&P 500 futures gained eight points or almost 0.3 per cent this morning.
The tech sector set the early pace, thanks to an 7.8 per cent surge in Afterpay after an independent audit cleared the buy-now-pay-later company of any breaches of money laundering or terrorism financing legislation. The report has been sent to government regulator AUSTRAC. Gains elsewhere in the sector were modest: Link Administration put on 2.1 per cent and Wisetech 0.4 per cent.
Caltex was the morning’s other standout performer at the big end of the market, rising 6.6 per cent to its strongest level in more than a year after raising its profit outlook and announcing plans to float shares in its convenience retail outlets.
BHP rumbled 1.9 per cent to a two-month high as a nine-session rally in iron ore lifted ore miners. Rio Tinto advanced 2.2 per cent to its highest point since early August. Fortescue fared even better, moving 2.4 per cent to a level last seen in the early days of the 2008 financial crisis.
Westpac shares hit a nine-month low before mounting a partial recovery after the bank scrapped executive bonuses and announced $80 million in fresh compliance costs in the wake of the bank’s money-laundering compliance failure. Shares in the bank were lately down 1 per cent at $24.51 after bottoming at $24.26. CBA was the best of the big four with a rise of 0.7 per cent.
Healius, the company formerly known as Primary Health Care, slid 3.4 per cent after announcing a managerial reshuffle and refining its profit expectations. At the smaller end of the market, biotech Kazia Therapeutics jumped 53.4 per cent on progress with a potential treatment for brain cancer.
What’s hot today and what’s not:
Hot today: Mithril Resources more than doubled its market capitalisation after announcing a “company-transforming” acquisition in Mexico. The junior explorer announced it has agreed to buy all the issued capital of private Australian exploration company Sun Minerals, which has an exclusive option on a gold-silver project in Durango. Mithril will fund the acquisition with a capital raising. Shares briefly surged from seven-tenths of a cent to 1.8 cents before settling back at 1.2 cents, a gain of 71.4 per cent.
Not today: Nufarm was the worst performer on the ASX 200, diving 17.5 per cent to a two-month low. The agricultural chemicals giant warned first-quarter earnings were $20 million lower than the same time last year, casting a shadow over the full-year outlook. Difficult trading conditions saw earnings fall across all regions, with North America particularly weak. The company also revealed a $9 million hit to earnings from previously unclaimed sales rebates in Germany for last financial year.
A positive morning on Asian markets lifted China’s Shanghai Composite 0.2 per cent, Hong
Kong’s Hang Seng 1.5 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 0.9 per cent.
Turning to commodity markets, Brent crude futures bounced nine cents or more than 0.1 per cent this morning to $US63.48 a barrel. Gold retreated $2.80 or 0.2 per cent to $US1,460.80 an ounce.
On currency markets, the dollar improved a fifth of a cent to 67.98 US cents.