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Local shares were higher heading into the lunch break, with the ASX 200 up about 28 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 6,959.7. The move higher followed yesterday’s decline which saw the benchmark fall to a one-month low. US shares were weaker overnight as investors digested the minutes from the April 28 Federal Reserve meeting. A mixed monthly update on employment highlighted an unexpected 30,600 drop in jobs last month, perhaps easing some nerves that the Reserve Bank might be considering taking its foot off the stimulus pedal.

Only energy (-1.3 per cent) and materials (-1.5 per cent) were lower (iron ore is off 3.7 per cent overnight), with all other sectors in the green. IT is the best performer, up 2.5 per cent, with health care also gaining 1.2 per cent, followed by financials up 1.2 per cent.

In company news, construction company Lendlease (LLC) has hired Simon Dixon as its new chief financial officer. The group’s CEO Steve McCann is leaving in June to head Crown Resorts. The incoming chief Tony Lombardo starts in June. LLC was down 1.5 per cent.

Chemicals supplier Nufarm (NUF) has reported a return to profit in 1H FY21 of $58.9m, compared to a loss of A$121.7m in the corresponding period a year earlier. Revenue is up 12 per cent to A$1.65b. Nufarm said it benefited from customers restocking products, and improved seasonal conditions in the Asia-Pacific region. NUF was up 2.4 per cent.

Beacon Lighting Group (BLX) has set NPAT guidance for FY21 between $35.5m-$37.5m. The company said trading conditions continue to be supportive with growth experienced in retail and online sales. BLX gained 3.1 per cent.

Qantas (QAN) expects a net loss of $2b in FY21, underlying EBITDA of $400-450m and to be statutory free cash flow positive in 2H. The airline also announced a wage freeze and voluntary redundancies as it battles border closures. QAN was up 3.1 per cent this morning.

Kathmandu (KMD) is down 1 per cent as it trades ex-dividend. The adventurer retailer will pay eligible investors a 1.6c per share dividend on 4 June.

The AUD buys 77.3 U.S. cents having briefly traded at 77.2 U.S. cents. Today, 2.0b units have been traded worth $2.5b with 670 stocks higher, 544 lower and 379 unchanged.

Published by CommSec