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Aussie shares are extending its run of improvements into a third day with the ASX 200 lifting by 37 points or 0.5% to 7,061 around midday. The local market is firming despite small losses on Wall Street overnight.

The heavyweight sectors are doing much of the heavy lifting with materials the most improved in the opening few hours of trade while financials are also making a positive difference. Energy and communications are the other significant movers to the upside. Industrials, healthcare property and IT are the decliners.

Individually, BHP Group (BHP) is climbing 2.1% and adding 9 points to the ASX 200 index. Fortescue Metals (FMG) is also lifting 2.1% while Rio Tinto (RIO) is 2.2% higher as iron ore prices jumped 3.7% last night. The major banks are also providing market support. Commonwealth Bank (CBA) is firming 0.5% and has hit another all-time high in the morning.

Aristocrat Leisure (ALL) is 3.7% higher having received several broker price target increases in response to its update yesterday where the gaming company upgraded its 1H21 earnings performance. It will release its full report on May 24.

Woodside Energy (WPL) is lifting 1.8% with the energy producer announcing that it will exit its 50% stake in the Kitimat LNG project in British Columbia, Canada. It is exiting the project to focus on what the company considers higher value opportunities in Australia and Senegal. The exit will likely impact its 2021 net profit after tax (NPAT) by US$40-60 million.

Gold miner, Newcrest Mining (NCM) is firmer by 2% after announcing it has set a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The goal relates to Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions (direct and indirect emissions from its operations). St Barbara (SBM) is sliding 8.5% as it has downgraded its gold production for FY21 to 330k-360koz while cost is anticipated to rise.

Elsewhere, James Hardie (JHX ) is down 4.9% following a quarterly earnings update. JHX reported net profit of US$262.8 million, up 8% on the prior period.

The Aussie dollar has firmed to close to 78 US cents, now buys 77.94 US cents.

Published by CommSec