The Australian share market has finished the week with gains across the board on hopes the coronavirus crisis might be easing in the hardest-hit areas.
The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index finished Thursday up 180.4 points, or 3.46 per cent, at 5,387.3, while the broader All Ordinaries index jumped 180.6 points, or 3.43 per cent, to 5,4394 in the final trading session before the four-day Easter break.
For the week, the ASX gained 6.3 per cent, eclipsing last week’s gains of 4.7 per cent as its best weekly finish since December 2011.
Two weeks ago, the market also finished up, but just by 25.8 points, or 0.54 per cent.
“Quite impressive,” CommSec market analyst Steven Daghlian said of Thursday’s session.
“I think what’s slightly surprising is that we’ve got a four-day weekend coming up,” and in past weeks traders have seemed to want to take a little off the table ahead of the weekend’s uncertainty.
But there were a few encouraginng signs that the pandemic was peaking in places.
“I wouldn’t say under control, but there’s some cautious optimism that things are stabilising a little in Spain, Italy and New York,” Mr Daghlian said.
All sectors were up on Thursday, with property trusts the biggest gainers, up 5.7 per cent as Scentre Group gained 10.6 per cent and Goodman Group rose 7.0 per cent.
Australia’s biggest company on the bourse, blood products giant CSL, gained 5.5 per cent to $329 after reaffirming its full-year guidance of $3.4 billion to $3.48 billion.
The company did, however, flag challenges collecting plasma blood from its centres in the US because of coronavirus-related restrictions on movement.
The big banks clawed back some of Wednesday’s losses following their double whammy of a Fitch ratings downgrade and APRA advice to cut dividends.
ANZ gained 6.6 per cent to $16.54, NAB rose 4.8 per cent to $16.08, Westpac gained 4.7 per cent to $15.96, and Commonwealth climbed 3.3 per cent to $61.76.
Macquarie Group rose 7.1 per cent to $99.50.
The mining sector was more restrained, with BHP gaining 0.6 per cent to $31.50, Rio Tinto rising 0.2 per cent to $89.39, and Fortescue climbing 0.8 per cent to $11.34.
Mineral sands producer Iluka Resources gained 2.4 per cent to $7.29 after withdrawing its 2020 guidance.
Energy stocks collectively gained 3.9 per cent on improved oil prices, which were buoyed overnight by hopes that OPEC and its allies would strike a production cut agreement on Thursday.
Woodside Petroleum, Beach Energy, Oil Search, Santos and Origin energy were up by between 3.8 per cent and 8.0 per cent.
Shell licensee and Geelong refinery owner Viva Energy gained 5.1 per cent to $1.345 after declaring it would reduce its capital expenditures for the year by $80 million to preserve cash.
Retailers had a strong day, with Just Jeans and Smiggle owner Premier Investments up 9.3 per cent, Rebel Sport owner Super Retail Group up 10.5 per cent, and JB Hi-Fi up 7.2 per cent.
Seven West Media gained 1.6 per cent to 6.2 cents after agreeing to delay its $40 million sale of Pacific Magazines to German publisher Bauer Media.
With Thursday’s gains, the ASX200 is now up 22.4 per cent from its March 23 low of 4,402.5, but still down 19.4 per cent on the year and 25.1 per cent from its February 20 peak of 7,197.2.
“We’ve still got a way to go to make up the losses,” Mr Daghlian said.
The Australian dollar was buying 62.10 US cents, up from 61.32 US cents at the close of markets on Wednesday.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished on Thursday up 180.4 points, or 3.46 per cent, at 5,387.3 points
* The All Ordinaries closed up 180.6 points, or 3.43 per cent, at 5,439.4 points
* At 1729 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was up 13 points, or 0.24 per cent, at 5,412 points
One Australian dollar buys:
* 62.29 US cents, from 61.32 US cents on Wednesday
* 67.85 Japanese yen, from 66.74 yen
* 57.32 euro cents, from 56.50 cents
* 50.23 British pence, from 49.86 pence
* 103.55 NZ cents, from 103.11 cents.