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Local shares are easing and giving back nearly all of yesterday’s gains, to start the last day of the week and month. This follows losses on Wall Street as US President Trump announced he would hold a press conference discussing China with tensions building between the two countries. The ASX 200 is down 1.2% or 69 points at 5,783 at lunch.

Despite today’s declines the benchmark index is still ~5% higher for the week, making it a fifth consecutive weekly improvement, while also advancing for a second month in a row, up 4.5% in May. At its lows in late March the ASX 200 was down 34% for the year but has since recovered to be down 12% year-to-date.

Losses have been widespread with nearly every sector in the red. Banks leading declines today, having led improvements over the first four days of the week. Westpac (WBC) and National Bank (NAB) are falling most with declines around 4.5%. Both are still up roughly 17% this week alone. Commonwealth Bank (CBA) is down just 1.4% today and climbing 10% this week.

Freedom Foods (FNP) is down 13% after providing a COVID19 trading update. The health food company is
expecting a material impact to its FY20 performance due to the pandemic which will include a one off write down of approximately $25 million.

Communications are outperforming with a 1.8% lift for Telstra (TLS) while the tech sector is also slightly higher. Support for Fortescue (FMG), Rio Tinto (RIO) and gold miners are also minimising losses across the materials sector. Northern Star (NST) is a standout as it rallies 7.9%.

Shipbuilder, Austal (ASB) was up as much as 20% in early trade after releasing an earnings upgrade for FY20. Covid impacts weren’t as severe as first expected while a new contract with the Australian Navy and weakness in the AUD against the USD is helping lift EBTDA expectations. ASB shares are now 6% firmer.

The Aussie dollar is little changed today but has managed to strengthen against the USD for the week and the month as it buys 66.3 US cents. So far, 2.1b units have traded worth $4.7b with 458 stocks higher, 570 lower and 358 unchanged.

Published by CommSec