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ASX lower, most sectors down

A late flurry of buying helped the Australian share market close little changed, and investors were keen on miners ahead of US Senate elections they hope will lead to government infrastructure spending.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed lower by 2.3 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 6681.9 on Tuesday.

The All Ordinaries closed higher by 2.0 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 6955.7.

Both indices traded lower for almost all of the session, after US markets closed down ahead of the elections in the state of Georgia that will determine which party controls the chamber.

The ASX indices jumped after regular trade closed at 1600 AEDT, which should have satisfied most investors.

The biggest gains were in the materials sector, which closed 1.81 per cent higher.

Higher nickel prices helped BHP rise 2.88 per cent to $44.30 and Rio Tinto climbed 2.11 per cent to $117.79.

After a share price record on Monday, Fortescue set another, $25.33. The iron ore specialist closed better by 1.57 per cent to $25.19.

Burman Invest chief investment officer Julia Lee believed investors buying miners were betting on the Democrats winning the Senate elections.

That result would help president-elect Joe Biden’s agenda of infrastructure spending to help a coronavirus-ravaged economy.

“The market is betting the result in Georgia will mean infrastructure spending is brought forward, and that of course is good news for miners,” Ms Lee said.

“The commodity space is going to be a positive area this year. It’s not just the US looking to build things to get out of recession, but all major governments in the world.”

The gold price also helped interest in materials.

Gold rose more than two per cent overnight and after the close of ASX trade was only 0.24 per cent lower to $US1937.85.

Gold miners benefited. Newcrest jumped 4.18 per cent to $28.14 and Northern Star increased by 3.39 per cent to $13.74.

Ms Lee said the interest in gold was a response to the lower US dollar.

“When you’re looking at the dilution of the US currency, you look at gold or Bitcoin,” she said.

News was better for the Australian economy.

The latest ANZ data shows job ads rose by 9.2 per cent in December to an 18-month high.

It meant job ads were up five per cent on the year and rebounded 98.3 per cent in the past eight months.

The states which most recently have had people infected with the coronavirus, NSW and Victoria, each recorded four infections.

On the ASX, furniture retailer Nick Scali rose 6.27 per cent to $10.51 after saying first-half underlying net profit is expected to be 100 per cent more to $40.5 million, compared to the same period in 2019.

The company in October forecast a rise of 70 to 80 per cent, but on Tuesday said the better than expected availability of shipping containers in November and December led to more deliveries.

In banking, the big four were all lower, as were Bendigo and Macquarie. NAB fared worst and lost 1.05 per cent to $22.69.

Jewellery retailer Lovisa dived 4.04 per cent to $11.15 after saying it will close 42 stores in the UK temporarily, due to the government’s COVID-19 measures.

Lovisa’s other stores around the world remain open.

Looking ahead, investors will be keen to see the minutes of the previous US Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting. The documents are due on Wednesday in the US.

The Aussie dollar was buying 77.04 US cents at 1716 AEDT, higher from 76.93 US cents at the close of trade on Monday.


* The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed lower by 2.3 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 6681.9 on Tuesday.

* The All Ordinaries closed higher by 2.0 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 6955.7.

* At 1716 AEDT, the SPI200 futures was higher by one point, or 0.02 per cent, to 6600 points.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 77.04 US cents, from 76.93 cents on Monday

* 79.30 Japanese yen, from 79.43 yen

* 62.80 Euro cents, from 62.96 cents

* 56.67 British pence, from 56.37 pence

* 106.84 NZ cents, from 107.11 cents.

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