ASX rises 1pc in strong start to new quarter
William McInnes

The Australian sharemarket made a strong start to the fourth quarter on Thursday, recouping some of its day-earlier losses as most stocks pushed higher.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 57 points, or 1 per cent, to 5872.9 with just a handful of stocks closing lower.

The rebound followed the 2.3 per cent decline on Wednesday, cementing a 1.4 per cent slide in the third quarter as a resurgence in COVID-19 cases worldwide weighed on investor sentiment.

“Risk appetite fell slightly in September as global equity markets broadly fell for the first time in six months,” said State Street Global Markets senior macro strategist Marvin Loh.

“Investors continue to closely monitor the path of the virus, which has seen an uptick in new cases globally as well as in counties that had initially successfully lowered their infection rates.”

US economic reports supported investor sentiment, with jobless claims and the ISM Manufacturing PMI holding steady through the month, suggesting the economic recovery remains on track.

The major iron ore miners led the gains following a sharp rise in iron ore prices ahead of China’s Golden Week holiday, with iron ore benchmark rising 5 per cent to $US123.47.

BHP Group advanced 1.9 per cent to $36.29, Rio Tinto climbed 1.2 per cent to $95.40 and Fortescue Metals Group rose 2.3 per cent to $16.68.

The big banks also gained. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority reported the value of loans frozen by borrowers hit by the virus crisis fell by 5 per cent to $229 billion over August.

Commonwealth Bank led the sector’s gains, rising 0.7 per cent to $64.04, Westpac advanced 0.5 per cent to $16.92, NAB firmed 0.5 per cent to $17.83 and ANZ climbed 1 per cent to $17.39.

Lynas shares rose 5.2 per cent to $2.44 after President Donald Trump triggered rarely used emergency government powers to allow direct state investments in critical minerals projects on Australian soil as part of a global push to eliminate US reliance on Chinese suppliers.

Reliance Worldwide shares soared 10.5 per cent to $4.22 after a surge in sales through September, with strong gains in the Americas and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions, building on an August sales jump.

The real estate investment trust sector was the best performing, driven by strong gains in stocks most exposed to the retail sector.

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield advanced 3.7 per cent to $2.51, Charter Hall Retail REIT climbed 4.2 per cent to $3.50, Vicinity Centres firmed 4 per cent to $1.43, Stockland added 3.7 per cent to $3.92, Shopping Centres Australasia rose 3.3 per cent to $2.21 and Scentre Group advanced 2.7 per cent to $2.26

Gambling stocks were also a standout. Star Entertainment Group rose 3.3 per cent to $3.16, Tabcorp added 3.3 per cent to $3.45 and Aristocrat Leisure firmed 1.8 per cent to $30.52.

Just a handful of stocks closed the session lower, with health and tech stocks among those trading lower.

Pro Medicus fell 2.3 per cent to $26.46, Altium slid 1.9 per cent to $35.23, Service Stream dropped 1 per cent to $2.03, Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals declined 2 per cent to $22.85, Nearmap lost 2.5 per cent to $2.31 and Appen dipped 1.2 per cent to $33.66.

A2 Milk extended its decline, dipping 0.2 per cent to $14.02 and hitting its lowest level since January 15 after it cut 2021 sales and earnings guidance following a collapse in the daigou market because of COVID-19 restrictions.

A number of gold miners were also weaker after the price of the precious metal dipped, as US equities rallied and bonds sold off. Newcrest Mining edged 0.6 per cent lower to $31.04 and Resolute Mining fell 1.1 per cent to 92¢.

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