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Aussie shares are lifting strongly at lunch, with the ASX 200 up 1.8 per cent to 5,300.3, following a solid 3.4 per cent gain across US markets and early signs COVID-19’s growth rate is slowing in some regions. With the exception of small losses from the Materials, all other sectors are lifting and around 150 of the 200 largest stocks on the market are up, highlighting widespread improvements albeit on relatively light volumes.

There is still a risk that markets could become a little volatile this afternoon considering this is the final trading session of the holiday-shortened week. This could create cautiousness on the part of some market participants hesitant to remain invested ahead of a four-day long weekend.

While US virus cases increased by 8 per cent yesterday, it marked the fifth straight decline in the growth rate. President Trump also said the US might be getting close to the top of the curve in relation to the outbreak. Other hotspots like Spain and Italy are also showing at least some promising signs that infection rates aren’t as bad as feared this week. With over 425,000 cases in the US alone however, risks certainly remain and coming weeks will be critical for nations to stay on course with restrictions.

Iluka (ILU) has removed its 2020 guidance due to ‘continued uncertainty in relation to the impact and duration of the [COVID-19] pandemic.’ ILU is down 1 per cent.

The best performer on the market is oOh!media (OML), which is up 19 per cent after HT&E acquired at least 11 million shares in the outdoor advertiser, representing a minimum 1.8 per cent of the Company. OML shares fell by 72 per cent in March.

G8 Education (GEM) has announced a $301m equity capital raising to ‘support the continuation of the Group’s operations through the period impacted by COVID-19, while also strengthening the Balance Sheet.’ This will result in the issue of ~377m new shares, which represents ~82 per cent of existing shares in the childcare centre operator.

CSL Limited (CSL) – the largest company on the ASX – has reaffirmed its FY20 profit guidance of between US$2.11bn and US$2.17bn.

1.6bn shares have changed hands so far today, worth $2.9bn (a little lighter than recent days). 749 stocks are up, 309 down and 263 are unchanged.

Published by  CommSec