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The ASX 200 is pushing higher for a fifth day, lifting by 1.1 per cent thanks to strong improvements from iron ore miners and banks. The index has risen above 7,000pts and has hit a 13- month high in the process. This is the first time this year the market is higher for a fifth consecutive day and is only a little over 3 per cent away from pre-COVID record highs.

Western Areas (WSA) recorded a 20 per cent quarter on quarter lift in total nickel mined and a 27 per cent rise in mined ore grade over the March quarter. WSA is up 4.7 per cent.

Scentre Group (SCG) updated the market on its dividend plans at its Annual General Meeting this morning. The company, which operates Australia’s Westfield shopping centres, expects to distribute at least 14c per security for 2021. SCG paid investors a 7c distribution on 26 February.

Westpac (WBC) is facing civil proceedings from ASIC relating to the sale of consumer credit insurance to approximately 384 customers. WBC shares are largely lifting in-line with the other majors today.

Thursday is a busy day for dividend payments with over a dozen companies distributing dividends to investors. This includes Brambles (BXB), South32 (S32), Regis (REG), Inghams (ING) and Iluka (ILU).

A2 Milk (A2M) is up 2 per cent at lunch, lifting for a second day for the first time since mid-February. The infant formula maker is still down by close to 30 per cent this calendar year. Border closures with China have hampered its key Daigou channel over the past year.

News Corp (NWS) has announced a private offering of $750m in Senior Notes due 2029. NWS plans to use the proceeds for general corporate purposes, which may include acquisitions and working capital.

Imugene (IMU) is up 1.6 per cent after lifting by an outsized 19.2 per cent on Wednesday. This followed the immunooncology company announcing progress in a clinical trial of a cancer treatment yesterday.

No major economic data is due in Australia or the region today. A weekly update on the number of people filing for unemployment benefits will receive attention in the United States tonight.

3.6bn shares have changed hands so far today worth $2.4bn, with 737 stocks up, 445 down and 419 remaining unchanged.

Published by CommSec