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Aussie shares are a touch higher on Monday, with the ASX 200 lifting by 0.6 per cent to 5,893.9 at lunch, after hitting a nine-week low on Friday and declining for four consecutive weeks. While US markets finished mixed on Friday, the tech heavy Nasdaq slumped by 10 per cent over the past week and a half, while softer oil prices and delays to coronavirus vaccine trials kept markets under pressure last week. This morning, the market could be lifting partly on a decline in positive COVID-19 tests in NSW and Victoria over the past day but also on news AstraZeneca is restarting its vaccine trials.

Victoria identified just 35 new COVID-19 cases over the past day; the state’s smallest number of cases in almost three months, while NSW recorded just four new cases. A concern however, is that this was done on a significant drop in conducted tests.

Last week AstraZeneca, one of the frontrunners to create a coronavirus vaccine, placed its trial on pause due to safety concerns. Over the weekend, the British drug company said it will resume trials. CSL Limited (CSL), which has agreed to manufacture the vaccine in the event of it being proved safe and effective, is up by 0.4 per cent.

At lunch, the market is being held up by strong gains from miners including Rio Tinto (RIO), BHP, Fortescue (FMG) and gold miners, together with energy stocks and industrials. Macquarie (MQG) and technology stocks are the main weights.

Macquarie Group (MQG) is down 4.3 per cent after warning of lower profits. The investment bank expects 1H21 profit to fall by ~35 per cent on 1H20 and to decline by 25 per cent on 2H20. MQG said it is ‘…unable to provide meaningful earnings guidance for FY21’ but expects ‘market conditions to remain challenging’ due to COVID-19’s impact on the global economy.

Engineering group, Monadelphous (MND) has secured construction and maintenance contracts with BHP worth ~$120m. MND shares are up 2.3 per cent on Monday.

Flexigroup (FXL) has announced the launch of its buy-now-paylater offering, ‘humm’ in New Zealand. FXL said this is the ‘only BNPL product in the country to support transactions in store and online up to NZ$10,000. FXL shares are down 40 per cent YTD.

Austal (ASB) has completed the purchase of additional land and buildings in the US as it continues to be a major market for the shipbuilder. Nufarm’s (NUF) Chief Financial Officer, Paul Binfield, has announced his resignation and will leave the group on 31 December. Shares in the agricultural chemicals company rose by close to 13 per cent last week after receiving a broker upgrade.

3.8bn shares have change hands worth a light $2.9bn. 670 stocks are up, 529 down and 351 are unchanged.

Fublished by CommSe