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The Australian sharemarket has crept into positive territory at lunch, with the ASX 200 up 0.13 per cent to 6,802.3 despite nine of 11 sectors pulling back. While the US market was largely unchanged on Friday, strong gains from the mining sector, Macquarie (MQG), QBE and some travel stocks are helping push the index higher.

As we enter the final trading week of February and the last full week of the profit reporting season, the ASX 200 remains on track to lift for a fifth consecutive months. The market is currently up by ~3 per cent in February.

oOh!Media (OML) is up 12.5 per cent despite posting a $35.7m loss for the year. COVID-19 triggered lockdowns reduced demand for outdoor advertising. In the results however, OML said that ‘revenue has recovered strongly in key formats’.

Costa Group (CGC) is up 12 per cent after the farming group swung back to profitability, recording a $60.8m annual profit. This compares to a $36.1m loss a year earlier. CGC has been recovering from drought challenges and has enjoyed strong demand and higher prices for citrus, berries and avocadoes.

Booktopia $BKG) is up 2.9 per cent after the online book seller raised its full year sales and profit forecasts, flagging a 36 per cent lift in underlying EBITDA to $12.9m.

Macquarie (MQG) is up 3.9 per cent and updated its short-term outlook. The investment bank expects its FY result for the 12 months to March to be up between 5-10 per cent in FY20. It attributed this partly to the cold snap in Texas, which has increased demand for gas. Its Macquarie Commodities & Global markets division physically ships gas on the majority of the major US pipelines.

Bank of Queensland (BOQ) has entered a trading halt and has announced the purchase of ME Bank for $1.325bn. BOQ expects the acquisition to roughly double the size of its retail bank and boost profits. It anticipates the purchase to help ‘balance out’ its East Coast presence, considering that ME Bank is based in Melbourne. It will pay for the acquisition via an Equity Raising, which is why BOQ is in a trading halt.

4.7bn shares have changed hands so far today, worth $3.7bn. 824 stocks are up, 564 down and 323 are flat.

Over the week, ~100 companies will post earnings, including Medibank, Qantas, Flight Centre, Harvey Norman and Woolworths. The vaccine rollout has started this morning and over 20 companies will trade ex-dividend including Telstra.

Published by CommSec