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Aussie shares have had a slow start to the final week of July, with the ASX 200 lifting by 0.2 per cent to 6,037.8 at ~12pm AEST on Monday. While the market declined by a modest 0.16 per cent last week, the index remains on track to advance for a fourth consecutive month. With five trading days left in July, the ASX 200 is up ~2.2 per cent this month.

Global markets provided the local bourse with a softer lead, with losses across both US and European equity markets partly on rising geopolitical uncertainty between the US and China. Last week, both ordered the closure of one consulate each.

The coronavirus remains a real concern with a record 532 new daily cases in Victoria announced this morning together with 17 in NSW. The longer case numbers remain elevated, the more likely an extension to metro Melbourne’s six-week lockdown becomes.

While the August reporting season is just around the corner, a few stocks are set to release earnings this week. The largest will be miner Rio Tinto (RIO) followed by CIMIC (CIM) and debt collector Credit Corp (CCP). Some of the world’s largest companies will post results in the US, including Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google, Boeing, GM, GE, 3M and Harley Davidson.

The market is currently slightly higher mainly thanks to solid gains from gold miners benefitting from the price of the precious metal hovering around a nine-year high and closing in on an alltime high. Gains from Afterpay (APT), Goodman (GMG), Wesfarmers (WES), the supermarket chains and REA Group (REA) are also contributing. The market is being held back most by the big banks, utilities, insurers, energy and healthcare.

IAG is down a further 3.5 per cent on Monday. The insurer behind NRMA slumped by 7.8 per cent on Friday after flagging lower profits and no final dividend (after paying a final distribution for 19 straight years). Six major brokers cut their price target expectations for the insurer this morning.

Healius (HLS) has flagged FY20 underlying EBIT of $102-$104m (vs FY19: $127m) and underlying NPAT from continuing operations of $54-$56m (vs FY19: $71m). HLS said the recovery in recent months was partly thanks to its pathology business and its focus on reducing costs.

Perpetual (PPT) has entered a trading halt as the money manager undertakes a $225m Equity Raising to acquire a 75 per cent stake in US-based asset manager, Barrow Hanley for US$319m (~A$465m). PPT expects the purchase to deliver scale, advance growth in the US and adds US$44.1bn in Funds Under Management.

2.9bn shares have changed hands so far today, worth $2.3bn. 608 stocks are up, 554 down and 358 are unchanged.

Published by CommSec