ASX up 0.5pc, dollar slips to 75 US cents: Wednesday 24 March

Steven Deare
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Australia’s share market bucked a downwards trend across most markets, possibly helped by the Aussie dollar falling to 75 US cents.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed up by 33.4 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 6778.8 on Wednesday.

The All Ordinaries closed higher by 27.3 points, or 0.39 per cent, to 7013.9.

Most sectors rose and the health sector proved best, up 1.87 per cent. CSL gained 1.92 per cent to $266.02.

The consumer sectors gained more than one per cent, while the property sector climbed 0.9 per cent.

Energy had the biggest fall, by a fair margin, down 0.86 per cent.

Oil prices plunged on concerns coronavirus lockdowns in Europe will stifle demand.

Most Asian markets were down after a negative lead from markets in the US, where financial leaders discussed tax hikes to pay for President Joe Biden’s $US1.9 trillion economic stimulus.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told a Senate hearing the economy remains in crisis. She defended plans to raise taxes to pay for public infrastructure projects.

Tribeca Investment Partners portfolio manager Jun Bei Liu was less concerned.

“We all know interest rates are not going higher, so what they said is not so much a surprise,” Ms Liu said.

She said ASX companies outperforming were linked to long-term low interest rates.

These companies were in infrastructure, property and health, she said.

Meanwhile the falling Aussie dollar made stocks cheaper for overseas investors.

Westpac head of foreign exchange Richard Franulovich said the US dollar had improved over the past few days.

“The US economy is coming back, and vaccinations are moving ahead. People are feeling more comfortable about the US’ prospects,” he said.

A slip in commodity prices, and New Zealand’s moves on Tuesday to ease housing prices, also affected the Aussie, he said.

On the ASX, the Commonwealth Bank played a key role in keeping the indices positive. It rose 1.89 per cent to $86.37 and was best of the big four.

Westpac said a demerger was being considered for its New Zealand business.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has required Westpac to separate its NZ operations from its Australian ones.

The central bank on Wednesday ordered Westpac New Zealand to have two reports from a third-party about risk governance and liquidity.

The Reserve said Westpac New Zealand had for years had compliance issues.

Shares were down 0.98 per cent to $24.19.

Premier Investments, owner of retailers including Peter Alexander and Just Jeans, defended not repaying $15.6 million in JobKeeper assistance after reporting an 88 per cent profit increase.

The retail giant said the subsidy helped pay workers during coronavirus closures and would do so in the event of more lockdowns.

Premier said the subsidy would not help pay dividends or management bonuses.

The business posted a first-half $188 million net profit in the 27 weeks to the end of January.

Shareholders will receive an interim dividend of 34 cents, in line with the previous corresponding period.

Shares were higher by 2.67 per cent to $23.84.

Accounting software developer Xero will buy electronic invoicing provider Tickstar for about 150,000,000 Swedish krona or $22.9 million.

Tickstar lets Xero and its customers connect to an electronic invoicing network that allows faster, more secure payments.

Xero said the purchase was expected to be completed in the first quarter of next financial year.

Shares were up 1.95 per cent to $123.47.

In mining, Rio Tinto was best of big three and rose 1.8 per cent to $109.70. BHP and Fortescue lost less than half a per cent.

The Australian dollar was buying 75.88 US cents at 1722 AEDT, lower from 76.92 US cents at Tuesday’s close.

ON THE ASX

* The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed up by 33.4 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 6778.8 on Wednesday.

* The All Ordinaries closed higher by 27.3 points, or 0.39 per cent, to 7013.9.

* At 1722 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was lower by three points, or 0.04 per cent, and trading at 6746 points.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 75.88 US cents, from 76.92 cents on Tuesday

* 82.31 Japanese yen, from 83.50 yen

* 64.09 Euro cents, from 64.40 cents

* 55.34 British pence, from 55.52 pence

* 108.80 NZ cents, from 108.55 cents.

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