SYDNEY, AAP – Investors have helped the ASX higher and there were broad, although mostly modest, gains across the sectors.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was up by 24.3 points, or 0.35 per cent, to 6803.1 at 1200 AEDT on Thursday.

The All Ordinaries was higher by 19.7 points, or 0.28 per cent, to 7033.6.

Energy led the sectors, higher by 1.18 per cent. Concerns a ship aground in Egypt’s Suez Canal, a busy shipping route, could tie up crude supply helped oil prices.

Health was next best, higher by 1.11 per cent. CSL rose 1.3 per cent to $269.49.

Information technology fared worst, down 1.28 per cent following plenty of selling on the US Nasdaq.

The ASX has trumped a negative US lead for the second consecutive day.

Optimism about economic recovery by Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was unable to halt a decline in shares.

The top two US economic officials’ comments mirrored what they told Congress the day before, with Powell saying the most likely case is 2021 will be “a very, very strong year”.

Yet the market has been spooked this week by the prospect of a third wave of coronavirus in Europe, and Ms Yellen’s comments the day before about possible tax hikes.

The US 10-year yield fell to about 1.6 per cent, a slide that in recent days had propped up tech stocks that rely on low-cost capital.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 3.09 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 32,420.06. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 265.81 points, or 2.01 per cent, to 12,961.89, while the S&P 500 lost 21.38 points, or 0.55 per cent, to 3,889.14.

In Australia, businesses are improving on better financial circumstances and are relying less on government support.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found in its business conditions survey that 46 per cent of firms expected it to be easy or very easy to meet their financial commitments during the next three months.

That compared with just 23 per cent in August when the economy was gripped by the pandemic.

On the ASX, diversified investment group Washington H Soul Pattinson reported a first-half profit increase of 35 per cent.

The company said a reduction in write-downs helped net profit after tax rise to $68.9 million.

Shareholders will receive a fully franked interim dividend of 26 cents per share, up from a previous interim payout of 25 cents per share.

Shares hit a record high of $32.10, then eased to be higher by 3.29 per cent to $31.99.

Payments provider Humm said customers spent $120 million in the past 12 months on healthcare using its buy now, pay later service.

The company allows much greater credit limits than other buy now, pay later providers, and said the average transaction was more than $4,000.

Humm has more than 3,500 businesses using the service across dental, pharmacy, audiology and other industries.

Shares were up 1.56 per cent to 97 cents.

Qantas’ deal with American Airlines to co-operate on flights across the Pacific Ocean has been approved again by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The two airlines have struck another five-year deal to co-ordinate sales and marketing, scheduling, pricing and other matters.

The ACCC said passengers would benefit from more routes and flights, and savings were likely.

Shares were better by 0.38 per cent to $5.15.

In mining, Rio Tinto was a notable loser, down 1.15 per cent to $108.43. BHP and Fortescue were little changed.

In banking, NAB was best and rose 1.06 per cent to $26.11. The others in the big four were little changed.

The Australian dollar was buying 76.02 US cents at 1200 AEDT, higher from 75.98 US cents at Wednesday’s close.