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The Aussie market is rising for a third consecutive session with the ASX 200 lifting 41 points or 0.6% to 7024 at lunch on Thursday. As was the case yesterday, the market is giving back some of its early gains with the ASX 200 hitting session highs of 7036 on the open.

The still solid improvement locally follows another strong session overseas with a record close for the S&P 500 on Wall Street. Major US indices are now nearly back at the levels prior to selling due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The heavyweight financials and materials and doing much of the heavy lifting with the big four banks all making gains. Westpac (WBC) is the best performer rising 1.9%. Financial services firm, Pinnacle Investment Management (PNI) is climbing 4.8% after a 37% lift in its first half net profit after tax (NPAT) to $13.8m.

Iron ore miners are performing well even with a 3% slide in the metal price last night. BHP Group (BHP) is the standout with a 1.1% lift while Rio Tinto (RIO) and Fortescue (FMG) are both also advancing at least 0.6%. Elsewhere, building product makers are enjoying solid sessions. CSR Ltd (CSR) is climbing 5.4%, Adelaide Brighton (ABC) is 4.2% higher and Boral (BLD) is lifting 3.3%.

In other company news, Coles Group (COL) is a touch weaker after providing a trading update ahead of its half year results release on February 18. Supermarket sales growth for the half was 2% helped by a strong Christmas period. Group earnings for the half is expected between $710m and $730m.

Furniture retailer Nick Scali (NCK) is 11% higher after beating its own company guidance for its operating profit over 1H20. This is despite a small dip in sales revenue and earnings (EBITDA) declining 18.8%. NCK also declined to provide FY20 guidance on uncertainties around consumer confidence and the ongoing coronavirus.

In a further sign that shopper are bringing forward spending habits around Christmas, December retail spending fell more than economists were expecting, down 0.5% after a 1% gain in November. The December trade surplus also fell slightly to $5.22 billion. The AUD buys 67.6 US cents.

So far, 1.3b units have traded worth $2.4b with 567 stocks higher, 436 lower and 317 unchanged.

Published by CommSec