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Local shares are weaker early on Friday with the ASX 200 lower by 25 points or 0.4% to 6,148 at lunch. Early declines come despite US markets rising overnight on increased hopes that a US stimulus package could be close. Trade has been rather quiet in the first few hours of the session as investors await the final US Presidential debate starting at 12pm AEDT.

The ASX 200 is also on track for its first weekly decline in three weeks. Today, materials are weighing most on the broader market with losses for the big names like BHP Group (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO). The two heavyweights are down 1.6% and 1.3% each.

Bluescope Steel (BSL) is bucking the negativity among material stocks The steel producer expects its 1H21 earnings before interest & tax (EBIT) to be 30% higher on the second half of FY20. Stronger steel margins has helped the performance of its Australian business and building products in Asia & North America.

Financials are firmer with the big four banks all improving. National Bank (NAB) is 0.5% higher even as the lender expects $642 million (pre-tax) in new provisions and impairments for its 2H20. The write-offs are related to customer remediation from its wealth and banking divisions ($380m), $128 million in payroll remediation and $134 million in property related impairments. NAB will release its full results on November 5.

Qantas (QAN) is 2% higher with the airliner one of several companies to hold its AGM today. QAN has seen a $100 million hit to 1Q21 earnings due to domestic border closures, leading to domestic capacity to fall to 30% of preCOVID levels compared prior expectations of 60% capacity. QAN anticipates capacity to hit 50% at Christmas.

Meanwhile Coca-Cola Amatil (CCL) is in a trading halt pending a potential material transaction involving the beverage company. The company has requested a halt with the announcement likely before Tuesday October 27.

The Aussie dollar has firmed against the greenback and is now buying 71.2 US cents. So far, 2.9b units worth $2.5b have been traded with 578 stocks higher, 587 lower and 364 unchanged.

Published by CommSec