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The Australian sharemarket is lifting for a second day, has hit a two-month high in the process, with the ASX 200 index up 1.1 per cent to 6,177.3. This keeps the index just ~0.3 per cent away from the best levels in five months. On the coronavirus front, there were 331 new cases in Victoria over the past 24 hours, just nine more than announced yesterday, which was the smallest number of new cases in 12 days. NSW recorded 22 new cases.

The US market is now on a seven-day winning streak (the longest of the year), with the S&P 500 lifting by 0.3 per cent overnight.

At lunch, the market is being pushed up most by gains from the big banks, property stocks, miners and industrials. Losses from technology stocks, gold miners and Mesoblast (MSB) are keeping the market in check.

Sydney Airport (SYD) has entered a trading halt as it raises $2bn in additional equity from investors. It plans to use the funds to reduce debt and to ‘strengthen its balance sheet’. SYD has been significantly impacted by the pandemic due to travel restrictions and border closures, posting a $53.6m loss between January and June. Revenues declined by 35.9 per cent as the number of passengers travelling through the airport completely dried up from March. SYD will raise the funds from both institutional and retail investors at a ~15 per cent discount to Monday’s closing price. Eligible securityholders will be entitled to buy 1 new SYD share for every 5.15 currently held.

James Hardie (JHX) is up 6 per cent despite posting an 89 per cent decline in 1Q net profit to US$9.4m vs 12 month earlier. The building products maker will keep its dividend suspended. However, JHX has gained market share in North America and also flagged US$330-$390m in FY21 earnings (compared to ~US$352m last year).

Challenger (CGF) is down 3.3 per cent after the investment firm posted a $416m annual loss which it blamed partly on its Challenger Life (annuities) business.

Shopping Centres Australasia (SCG) is up 2.7 per cent despite the owner of over 80 shopping centres posting a 22 per cent decline in net profit to $85.5m. SCG will pay eligible investors a 5c per unit distribution. No guidance was provided.

3.5bn shares have changed hands so far worth a light $3.4bn. 656 stocks are up, 514 are down and 349 are unchanged.

Published by CommSec