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The Australian sharemarket is near an intraday high after a slow start, with the ASX 200 lifting by 0.49 per cent to 6,675.4 thanks to gains across most sectors. While American stocks were mixed on Friday, the US approved Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine over the weekend. This is the final full week of 2020 before activity winds down for Christmas. This has historically meant around half as much trading as usual in the final fortnight of December.

The local market eked out its sixth consecutive week of gains, however the size of the weekly gains has reduced with markets taking a breather from the outsized 10 per cent rally recorded in November. The ASX 200 has improved 22 of the past 31 days however, and is still up by ~2.5 per cent so far this month.

Gains from the banks, retailers, property stocks, Afterpay (APT), Woolworths (WOW), Coles (COL) and Transurban (TCL) are helping offset losses from gold miners, energy, travel and healthcare stocks at lunch.

The ACCC said it would not oppose IOOF’s (IFL) proposed purchase of MLC Wealth Management from National Australia Bank (NAB). Shares in both NAB and IFL are lifting with the rest of the market.

Pacific Smiles (PSQ) is up more than 12 per cent after raising guidance this morning. The owner of close to 100 dental centres expects patient fees growth of 25-30 per cent in FY21 (previously ~20 per cent) and EBITDA growth of 35-45 per cent (previously ~25 per cent).

Crown (CWN) shares are up by 1.2 per cent at lunch. Maurice Blackburn has filed a class action in the Supreme Court of Victoria against the casino operator. In a one-page media release, Crown acknowledged that the “…class action aims to recover compensation from Crown, seeks the potential buy-back of investors’ shares at a fair price, and seeks that Crown implement a proper anti-money laundering training program.’

There are a number of newcomers to the ASX today, including Errawarra Resources (ERW), Genusplus (GNP), Live Verdure (LV1) and Sovereign Cloud Holdings (SOV). Shares in SOV are surging by 43 per cent, LV1 is up 22 per cent, GNP is up 8.3 per cent and ERW is yet to list.

Despite the iron ore price hitting a nine-year high, shares in Fortescue (FMG), BHP and Rio Tinto (RIO) are all down. Keep in mind that on Friday, FMG hit a record high, RIO a 12.5 year high and BHP is close to the best levels in a decade.

Shares in Eagers Automotive (APE) is up over 6 per cent after selling its Daimler truck business and Milperra property to US based Velocity Vehicle Group for $180m. It expects the sale will deliver an estimated net gain of $32-$36m before tax. Washington H Soul Pattinson (SOL) is set to pay eligible investors a 35c final dividend today.

2.9bn shares have changed hands so far, worth $2.5bn. 637 stocks are up, 603 down and 357 are unchanged.

Published by CommSec