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Local shares are continuing to track higher on Friday as Middle East tensions cool after Iran’s retaliatory strikes on US troops in Iraq earlier this week. The ASX 200, which finished yesterday’s session at a record close, is following moves on US markets and firming 40 points or 0.6% to 6915. The index has broken through its previous all-time intraday high of 6893 in early trade.

Today’s moves also continue the recent trend higher for the Aussie market, which has started 2020 in positive fashion. The benchmark index is on track for a gain of 2.7% for the first full week of the year. If it can maintain these levels, it will be the best weekly gain since the week ending February 8 in 2019.

Gains have been mostly broad based so far with roughly 75% (152) of the top 200 stocks in positive territory. Leading the improvements have been the healthcare, tech and consumer sectors. Domain Holdings (DHG) is one of the most improved as it advances 5.3%. Buy-now pay-later firm ZipCo (Z1P) is 3.3% higher. Financials are also contributing to broader lifts with the four major lenders higher as much as 0.6%.

The ASX’s largest listed health company, CSL Ltd (CSL) continues to hit record highs with the stock lifting another 1.9%. A reportedly early start to the flu season in North America is expected to see strong demand for its flu vaccine unit.

The only sector in reverse is materials. The fall in iron ore overnight has weighed on local iron ore miners with BHP Group (BHP) down 0.5% while Fortescue Metals (FMG) is 0.9% weaker. Gold names are also in decline as investor risk appetites return. One of the worst performers among gold names is Evolution Mining (EVN), down 6.5%, after providing a production update for the December quarter. Year-to-date production for FY20 is at the bottom end of guidance with quarterly output of roughly 171koz for the three months to December.

There was some good news for retailers as November retail sales lifted 0.9% and easily beat expected growth of 0.4% to be the best monthly result in two years. The numbers were helped by Black Friday and other sales promotions. The Aussie dollar is buying 68.6 US cents. So far, 1b units have traded worth $2b with 550 stocks higher,
379 weaker and 323 unchanged.

Published by CommSec