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Local shares are climbing higher for a third straight session following a strong night on Wall Street with the US midterm elections going largely as expected. The ASX 200 is lifting 34 points or 0.6% to 5931 towards lunch.
Improvements are coming in across the board with only the utilities sector in negative territory. Healthcare is doing much of the heavy lifting with biotech firm CSL Ltd (CSL) gaining 1.7%, followed by the consumer staples and energy sectors. Financials are also supportive despite a near 4% slide for National Bank (NAB) as it trades ex-dividend while the remaining big banks are all higher. Two other major lenders will follow suit next week with ANZ Bank (ANZ) ex-div on Monday and Westpac (WBC) going ex-div on Tuesday.
It has been a big day on the company news front causing some big movements for stocks. Afterpay Touch (APT) is surging 10% on the release of a business update. The fintech firm has outlined strong sales and network growth in its US and ANZ markets while also welcoming any new regulation for its industry. Another big improver is REA Group (REA), owner of realestate.com.au, which is also 10% higher after announcing 1Q19 earnings figures. Both revenue and earnings (EBITDA) saw healthy double digit growth despite tough market conditions. Listings fell 3% nationally with an 8% dip in Sydney.
Elsewhere, Nine Entertainment (NEC) and Fairfax Media (FXJ) have received approval from the ACCC to merge. The merger could go ahead as early as December 10. Both stocks are ~2% higher. Corporate Travel Management (CTD) is climbing 14% after resuming trade and responding to another note from investment firm VGI Partners, which holds a significant short position against CTD. BHP Billiton (BHP) is higher as it holds its AGM today.
Pipeline operator, APA Group (APA) is down 8% after federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg viewed the proposed takeover by a foreign consortium as “contrary to the national interest”. James Hardie (JHX) is among the steepest decliners, down 14% on the release of its quarterly update.
The Aussie dollar has continued to lift following a weaker USD as the Democrats regained the US House of Reps, with the local currency firming close to 72.8 US cents t its best. It has since eased to 72.7 US cents. Chinese trade data due later this afternoon which could move the AUD.
So far, 1.2B units have traded worth $2B with 611 stocks higher, 324 weaker and 329 unchanged.
Published by James Tao, CommSec