• SYDNEY, AAP – Australia’s share market has climbed to within 100 points of its record high after big gains for market giants CSL and the Commonwealth Bank.

    The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was higher by 49.1 points, or 0.69 per cent, to 7117 at 1200 AEST.

    The index’s record high is 7197.2, set in February last year days before the coronavirus crash.

    The All Ordinaries on Wednesday was up by 41.8 points, or 0.57 per cent, to 7365.3 points.

    Biotech CSL rose 2.72 per cent to $278.60 and gave health shares the strongest rise, 1.55 per cent.

    The Commonwealth Bank was up 2.32 per cent to $92.55.

    ANZ made headlines after it reported cash profit for the six months to March 31 more than doubled from a year ago to $2.99 billion.

    Improving economic conditions helped the bank improve its home loans business.

    Investors appeared to think the figures should have been higher. Shares fell 2.02 per cent to $28.24.

    Also in banking, Westpac is being sued for alleged insider trading, amid claims it unfairly profited from a $12 billion interest rate swap deal.

    The Australian Securities and Investments Commission said it was taking the bank to the Federal Court over the deal with an AustralianSuper consortium.

    Westpac said it was considering its position.

    Shares were up 0.8 per cent to $26.20.

    There was a mostly negative lead from US markets.

    US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s comments on the potential need for interest rate hikes further exacerbated a tech sell-off. Investors worry higher rates will weigh on valuations of growth companies.

    The Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.88 per cent, while the S&P 500 lost 0.67 per cent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed slightly higher by 0.06 per cent.

    Yellen, at a subsequent conference, said a rise in interest rates was not something she was predicting or recommending.

    On the ASX, the big miners were higher.

    BHP rose 1.16 per cent to $48.79. Fortescue gained 0.75 per cent to $22.83. Rio Tinto was up 1.32 per cent to $124.76.

    Digital maps provider Nearmap surged by 14.56 per cent to $2.36.

    Its shares were in a trading halt due to pending news.

    Insurer QBE rose 3.98 per cent to $10.44 after it said dividend payments would resume this year.

    Chair Michael Wilkins told the insurer’s annual general meeting the company would return to profitability in 2021 as the economy recovers from the coronavirus.

    The Australian dollar was buying 77.34 US cents at 1200 AEST, lower from 77.43 US cents at Tuesday’s close.