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Aussie shares have faded from a better start with the ASX 200 down 0.3 per cent to 6,779 due mainly to losses from resource stocks and banks. The local market was up as much as 0.54 per cent on the open, lifting for a fourth time in five sessions. With just one full trading day remaining in March, the ASX 200 is up 1.6 per cent so far this month. Cloud accounting firm Xero (XRO) is up 3.2 per cent and the strongest performer on the ASX 200 at lunch.

The next fortnight will be holiday shortened for Easter and school holidays are about to kick-in which can keep volumes a little lighter than usual. Over $3bn will be paid in dividends to eligible investors today. Close to $2.7bn will be paid out from CBA alone. IAG will distribute ~$170m, Northern Star (NST) approximately $111m and BlueScope (BSL), Tassal Group (TGR), Nick Scali (NCK) and Contact Energy (CEN) are also due to pay dividends.

Greater Brisbane entered a three-day lockdown last night, which will make the daily updates from Queensland officials important to determine whether the lockdowns are extended into Easter. There were 10 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours in QLD, eight of which were locally acquired on 14,000 tests. Travel stocks are mixed, with Webjet (WEB), Flight Centre (FLT) and Corporate Travel (CTD) in the red while Sydney Airport (SYD) and Qantas (QAN) are lifting.

Energy stocks are lower despite a 1 per cent lift in the oil price overnight which rose partly on market expectations that OPEC+ is likely to remain cautious in returning supply to the market due to demand threats from European lockdowns. Oil prices initially dropped when news broke that the container ship blocking the Suez Canal had been freed.

AGL Energy (AGL) is up 2 per cent after announcing its restructuring plans to split into two separate businesses this morning. ‘New AGL’ will comprise of its retailing interests and will include a portfolio of renewables. ‘PrimeCo’ will be the country’s largest electricity generator, which will come mainly from coal.

Mortgage Choice (MOC) is up 0.25 per cent after the mortgage broking firm surged by 62.55 per cent on Monday thanks to REA Group (REA) launching a $243m ($1.95 per share) takeover offer.

A2 Milk (A2M) is edging higher by 0.3 per cent and follows 10 straight sessions of declines for the dairy group. A2M has provided three guidance downgrades in just six months partly due to border closures, which has slashed business from its Daigou Channel.

The ANZ Roy Morgan Weekly Consumer Sentiment index (March 28) rose by 1.7 per cent to 112.3.

2.9bn shares have changed hands so far worth $2.6bn. 528 stocks are up, 716 are down and 367 are unchanged.

Published by CommSec