Thursday’s session started with a positive tone as the ASX 200 built on yesterday’s gains. The ASX 200 opened with a 2 point gain before trading 28 points higher at the most improved levels of the morning. The gains were led by Materials and Industrials, in addition to advancing Financials. Utilities Telecoms and Property Trusts were the only three sector to be in the red at lunch. The constructive tone was informed by gains for US stocks overnight, aided by Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s continued upbeat testimony on the US economy to the US House congressional committee. The S&P 500 index rose by 0.2% to 2815, a 5-month high. The Dow Jones index rose by 79 points or 0.3% and. The Nasdaq index fell by just 0.7 points or -0.01%.
The Materials sector added to yesterday’s gains, supported by gains for South32 (S32), which was ahead by 6 cents or 1.8% to $3.64. The miner delivered a well received June quarter production report. Among it’s outcomes in the period, S32 said it had achieved a record performance at Australia Manganese and a 10% increase in total manganese ore production in FY18 as the group strived to take advantage of stronger demand and pricing.
Shares in Afterpay Touch (APT) surged by as much as 21% after releasing its Q4 business update. The financial technology group said that over $2.18 billion of total underlying sales were processed through the Afterpay platform in FY18, marking a 289% increase compared to a year earlier. Underlying sales in Q4 totalled approximately $736 million, an increase of 171% over the same period last year. APT highlighted a strong start to launch of its U.S. operations since launching in mid-May 2018, with over $11 million of underlying sales in the first full month. FY18 group revenue and other Income is expected to be in the order of $142 million and group EBITDA is expected to be in the order of $33 to $34 million
Energy names were flat as a group, despite firmer oil prices overnight. Santos (STO) shares rose after reporting that production rose 3% in Q2to 14.2 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe), reflecting a resumption of production at the PNG LNG gas-export operation following the earthquake in February. Revenue for the six months rose by 16% to US$1.68 billion, due to a 37% jump in the average realized price of oil during the period. STO shares were lately at $6.04 for a gain of 8 cents or 1.3%
In economic news the ABS reported that employment rose by 50,900 in June after a 13,400 increase in May. Full-time jobs rose by 41,200 and part-time jobs rose by 9,700. Economists had forecast an increase in total jobs of around 17,000. Total employment is at a record-high 12.574 million. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.4%, although to 2 decimal places, 5.37% is the lowest unemployment rate in 5½ years. The Aussie dollar firmed following the report. A short time ago the local unit was at 74.30 US cents having been as low as 73.90 earlier.
Published by CommSec