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The Australian sharemarket is lifting for the fourth time in five days, with gains across most sectors pushing equities to intraday highs and the ASX 200 up 1.3 per cent to 5,461.7. This is adding to Wednesday’s 1.5 per cent advance and is setting our market up for a solid end to an encouraging month. The ASX 200 is up by more than 7 per cent in April on the final trading day of the month. Keep in mind this follows March’s 21.5 per cent slump, which was the worst month since 1987 for local shares.

US stocks improved strongly last night, with the Dow Jones jumping 2.2 per cent and tech heavy Nasdaq standing out with a 3.6 per cent lift. Promising signs for Gilead’s COVID-19 drug remdesivir together with progress being made on reopening some US states has helped push stocks higher. This was enough to offset data highlighting the US economy shrank by 4.8 per cent in the first quarter. This was the fastest rate of decline since the 2008 financial crisis and the first quarterly contraction since 2014. The Fed kept rates on hold in a monthly meeting last night while remaining prepared to provide additional help if necessary. Microsoft, Facebook and Tesla shares surged thanks to better quarterly results.

Energy stocks are standing out thanks to a 22 per cent jump in oil prices overnight. Woodside (WPL) is up 3.3 per cent, Santos (STO) is up 5.5 per cent and Origin (ORG) is improving by 3.7 per cent.

ANZ Banking Group (ANZ) is the only bank under pressure on Thursday. It handed down a 62 per cent fall in half year cash profit to $1,323m and has decided to defer the decision on its interim dividend payment until the economic outlook is clearer due to COVID-19. ANZ tends to pay out a half year dividend in early July and trades ex-dividend in mid-May. ANZ said it will provide an update in August. It has received around 105,000 requests for home loan assistance ($36bn or 14 per cent of its home loan portfolio).

Woolworths (WOW) is underperforming the broader market. Supermarket sales rose by 11.3 per cent to $11,171m in the March quarter due to COVID-19 influenced purchases. Coles recorded a 14 per cent lift in sales yesterday. Big W sales rose by 9.9 per cent to $866m over the quarter.

Fortescue Metals (FMG) is up by 4 per cent following the release of its quarterly report. Iron ore shipments rose by 10 per cent to 42.3mt, ore mined slipped by 13 per cent, costs down 2 per cent and it upgraded its FY20 shipment guidance to 175-177mt.

Credit Corp (CCP) has resumed trade and is rallying by 17.5 per cent after completing a $120m institutional capital raise. It is looking to raise another $30m via a share purchase plan.

1.9bn shares have changed hands so far worth $3.8bn. 808 stocks are up, 299 down and 298 are unchanged.

Published by CommSec