ASX higher on banks, consumer stocks

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ASX higher on banks, consumer stocks

Investors have helped deliver gains to Australia’s share market, along with most Asian markets, and may be looking to a rosier future since the US approved a coronavirus vaccine.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed higher by 17.6 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 6660.2 on Monday, in the first session since the US began distributing the Pfizer vaccine.

The ASX200 index is close to where it started the year on January 1 (6684.07).

The All Ordinaries closed higher by 13.9 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 6900.3.

Among the sectors, financials gained 1.04 per cent and consumer discretionaries was better by 1.29 per cent.

The smaller information technology sector was best, up 3.04 per cent. Afterpay set a share price record.

The increases offset losses in healthcare (1.37 per cent) and materials (0.87 per cent).

Pepperstone chief market strategist Chris Weston noted the ASX had performed similarly to most Asian markets and US futures.

“There’s a general sense we’re pushing up,” he said of the indices.

“Markets have no reason to fall at the moment, but perhaps from being over-loved.”

The US approval of the vaccine may have cheered investors since Wall Street trade closed mostly lower on Friday.

The first shipments have moved across the United States as part of efforts to inoculate more than 100 million people by the end of March.

Mr Weston also noted the many investors’ buying financial stocks.

“That’s a really interesting trade,” he said.

“The idea is in 2021 we’ll see more normal conditions … and those companies will be giving more back to shareholders.”

Mr Weston was also hopeful of US politicians delivering economic stimulus to the flagging US economy.

Reuters reported a $US908 billion relief plan will be split in two in an effort to win approval and could be introduced early this week.

“I think we’ll see some sort of bipartisan agreement this week,” Mr Weston said.

In the Asia Pacific region, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her cabinet will form travel arrangements with Australia by the end of March.

Quarantine-free travel will require Australian government approval and few COVID infections.

On the ASX, Afterpay shares fetched a record $111.66.

They closed higher by 8.83 per cent to $109.93.

Wesfarmers shares also set a record, $51.29. They closed higher by 2.72 per cent to $50.94.

A fresh class action has been levelled against casino giant Crown Resorts, accusing it of misleading investors over possible anti-money laundering breaches.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn alleged misleading or deceptive conduct from December 2014 to October this year.

It alleges the casino misrepresented it had effective systems to ensure it met anti-money laundering obligations.

Shares closed higher by 0.72 per cent to $9.79.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says it will not oppose wealth manager IOOF buying MLC Wealth Management from NAB.

The ACCC says IOOF will still face significant competition.

NAB shares closed better by 0.94 per cent to $23.55.

Among its main rivals, ANZ was higher by 1.05 per cent to $23.18, the Commonwealth was up 1.86 per cent to $83.92 and Westpac rose 0.4 per cent to $20.03.

In mining, BHP lost 0.19 per cent to $42.74, Fortescue was down 3.44 per cent to $22.16 and Rio Tinto slipped 1.78 per cent to $113.94.

On Tuesday, the minutes of the Reserve Bank board’s monetary policy meeting will be published.

The Aussie dollar was buying 75.50 US cents at 1719 AEDT, lower from 75.57 US cents at Friday’s close.

ON THE ASX

* The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed higher by 17.6 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 6660.2 on Monday.

* The All Ordinaries closed higher by 13.9 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 6900.3.

* At 1719 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was higher by four points, or 0.06 per cent, to 6666.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 75.50 US cents, from 75.57 cents on Friday

* 78.52 Japanese yen, from 78.66 yen

* 62.18 Euro cents, from 62.19 cents

* 56.65 British pence, from 56.77 pence

* 106.45 NZ cents, from 106.47 cents.

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