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Local shares are trading lower at lunch on Friday with the ASX 200 hovering near the lows of the session around lunch. The benchmark index is down 44 points or 0.64% to 6,841. While most sectors are in the red, weighing most are declines for the big banks, miners and health stocks.

Even with today’s declines, the ASX 200 is still on track for a weekly improvement of roughly 0.6% or 39 points. This will continue the market’s inconsistent weekly performance which has been unable to string together two successive weekly gains or losses so far in 2021.

Today is a slightly quieter one on the earnings season front compared to earlier in the week. Hearing implant maker, Cochlear (COH) is firming 7% even as its revenue and underlying profit for the first half fell on the year before. The good news is the declines were not as severe as analysts had expected. COH is expecting improving momentum as the year progresses and also declared an interim dividend, having scrapped a final dividend six months ago.

Poultry producer, Inghams (ING) is 2.9% higher as revenue rose slightly for the first half and net profit rose a far more significant 35% to $35.3 million. Jewellery retailer, Lovisa Holdings (LOV) is jumping 18% on profit numbers even as revenue and sales fell for the half, impacted by lockdown restrictions in Victoria and overall weak global markets. Still LOV lifted its interim dividend by a third to 20cps.

QBE Insurance (QBE) is now lifting 0.9% having been weaker for much of the morning. The insurer reported a significant net loss, which it had updated the market earlier in the month. Its FY20 net loss after tax was US$1.52 billion from a US$550 million profit a year ago. The reason was due to impairments including a reduction in investment income and goodwill. QBE won’t pay a final dividend.

Elsewhere, buy-now pay-later (BNPL) are improving with ZipCo (Z1P) and Afterpay (APT) adding 6.4% and 5.6% respectively. Crown Resorts (CWN) is also climbing 5% having received broker price target increases.

The AUD is fairly steady at 77.75 US cents following the release of January preliminary retail sales figures. Sales rose 0.6% month on month, compared to an estimated 2% gain.

Published by CommSec