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Local shares are trading mostly flat at lunch with the ASX 200 nudging four points higher to 5,784 after the first few hours of trade. The market opened with losses of just over 1% but is rebounding as the session progresses. This follows what were strong gains over the first two days of the week, where the benchmark index rose ~5%.

Wall Street also rallied overnight on optimism around COVID19 restrictions easing. Although US indices closed off session highs as tensions continue to rise between the US and China with the White House contemplating sanctions against Chinese officials and firms over its handling of Hong Kong.

The majority of sectors are currently in decline with materials, healthcare and IT among the major laggards. Major miners and health stocks are weighing most. Afterpay (APT) is also giving back some of its gains made over the past few days, where it hit fresh record highs. APT shares are down 5.5%.

Significant improvements for financials are behind the change in fortune for the local market while gains for local energy providers are also providing support as global oil prices tick higher.

The big four banks are all climbing with Commonwealth Bank (CBA) again underperforming but still lifting 4.3%. ANZ Bank (ANZ) is leading the way as it gains 8.3% with similar gains for Westpac (WBC) and National Bank (NAB). NAB also confirmed it increased its retail Share Purchase Plan (SPP) from $500 million to $1.25 billion due to strong shareholder demand.

In other company news, Blackmores (BKL) is in a trading halt as it looks to raise $117 million from investors split with $92 million from institutional investors and $25 million from retail shareholders. It will use the funds to strengthen its balance sheet and liquidity. It will also look to accelerate growth in Asia and invest in its efficiency program.

The Aussie dollar is around the best levels in 11 weeks and has gained roughly1 US cent from this time yesterday. The AUD now buys 66.5 US cents.

So far, 2.4b units have been traded worth $4.5b with 573 stocks higher, 500 weaker and 320 unchanged.

Published by CommSec