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The Aussie market is higher for a third day in a row with the ASX 200 lifting 49 points or 0.7% to 7,117 at lunch on Wednesday. After a relatively flat start, the index jumped in the past hour of trading with the benchmark index now only 80 points or 1.1% away from last February’s all-time highs.

Gains have been rather broad based for the opening few hours of trade, Healthcare is a standout rising 1.6% while financials and materials are also well supportive of the market. IT is the main underperformer following tech underperformance in the US overnight where the Nasdaq dropped 1.9% as big US tech names fell on valuation concerns.

Biotech giant CSL Limited (CSL) and Commonwealth Bank (CBA) are the main contributors to market gains, both adding ~11 points each to the ASX 200 index. CSL is 2.7% higher having presented to investors. It continues to grow its plasma collection network with 25 new centres opening in the US for FY21 and 40 new centres to open in FY22. CBA is climbing 2.3% and has hit the highest levels since April 2015.

While the other big 4 lenders are higher, ANZ Bank (ANZ) is down 2% following its first half profit release. Cash earnings from continued operations came in at $2.99 billion, which was up 112% on the prior year. The result was mostly driven by significantly lower bad debt charges. ANZ also declared an interim dividend of 70 cents per share.

QBE Insurance (QBE) is lifting 4% with the insurer holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) today. It re-confirmed expectations that it will resume dividend payments in 2021. QBE also provided a March Quarter update with premium rates increasing 8.9% while Gross Written Premiums (GWP) jumped 28% on the same time a year ago.

Medibank Private (MPL) is up 2% having upgraded its FY21 guidance for policyholder growth to between 3.5% and 4%, having added 70,200 policyholders for the financial year to date. MPL also lowered its average net claims expense per policy to ~2.5%.

The Aussie dollar is firmer from the close of US markets and is now buying 77.32 US cents.

Published by CommSec