ASX SPI futures indicate a positive start to the final day of the week, up 48 points or 0.7 per cent after another rally in the US overnight with the benchmark US S&P 500 index once again, closing at a record high.

Today’s Announcements: Rio Tinto (RIO) pauses mining operation | AMP (AMP) agrees to complete divestment | Ampol (ALD) receives an update regarding its Z Energy acquisition plan | BWX announces final acquisition cost |

Aussie shares set to start on a positive note with the US S&P 500 index closing at a record high.

· Friday trade is expected to start on a positive note with the ASX SPI futures pointing up by 48 points or 0.7 per cent. Risk sentiment increased as Omicron worries receded, while better-than-expected US economic data boosted hopes that the economic recovery is still on track. The Dow Jones index closed up 197 points or 0.6 per cent, the S&P 500 index added 29 points or 0.6 per cent to record closing highs and the Nasdaq index gained 131 points or 0.9 per cent.

· In commodities markets, the Brent crude oil price gained US$1.56 or 2.1 per cent to US$76.85 a barrel and the US Nymex crude price added US$1.03 or 1.4 per cent to US$73.79 a barrel. Reduced fears of an Omicron-induced demand slump and US government data showing a drop in US inventories helped lift crude prices. In response, Aussie-listed energy companies, such as Woodside Petroleum (WPL) and Santos (STO) may trade higher today.

· Bullion continued its rally, with the gold futures price adding US$9.50 or 0.5 per cent to US$1,811.70 an ounce. Spot gold was trading near US$1,809 an ounce at the US close. The continued rise in the gold price could support shares of Aussie gold miners such as Evolution Mining (EVN) and Newcrest Mining (NCM).

· Iron ore offset losses in the previous session by climbing US$1.15 or 0.9 per cent to US$123.75 a tonne overnight. London-listed iron ore miners Rio (+0.2 per cent) and BHP (+1 per cent) also climbed as the prices of the steel-making ingredient rose.

Rio Tinto (RIO) pauses operations at their Serbian Lithium Mine due to protests.

· Rio Tinto (RIO) has paused their operations at their Serbian lithium mine after environmental groups protested and caused the local municipal government to scrap Rio’s land allocation plan. Rio aims to call for a public dialogue and educate residents about the project, which aims to extract lithium, a crucial ingredient for electric vehicle batteries.

· AMP Limited’s (AMP) Private Market business, PrivateMarketsCo, has agreed to sell its Infrastructure Debt platform to Ares Management Corporation (ARES US) for $428 million. PrivateMarketsCo’s rationale behind the divestment follows its initiative to focus on managing equity investments in real estate and infrastructure as opposed to infrastructure debt funds. The proceeds from the transaction will strengthen the capital position of AMP and the demerger is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022.

· Ampol (ALD) has received some pushback from the New Zealand Commerce Commission in relation to their plan to acquire Z Energy by selling their currently owned Gull business, either by trade or initial public offering (IPO). The New Zealand regulator outlined potential competition issues with the acquisition and suggested that the proposed merger may be granted clearance if it is unlikely to lessen competition.

· BWX Limited (BWX), owner of the “Sukin” skincare brand, has announced that the final consideration paid for their 50.1 per cent stake in Go-To Skincare, is $89.5 million.

Originally published by CommSec

Authors: Divik Nigam, Associate Equity Market Analyst and Ryan Felsman, Senior Economist.