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The Australian sharemarket is higher at lunch, with the ASX 200 up by ~0.6 per cent to 7,303 and is near an intraday high. The gains come despite a weak lead from Wall Street, a pullback in most commodity prices and a one-week extension to the Greater Sydney lockdown confirmed by the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian this morning.

While the Reserve Bank made changes to some of its tools at its monthly meeting held yesterday, including a slight reduction in some of its stimulus measures, Governor Lowe maintained a dovish tone in his talk Tuesday afternoon. The RBA Governor reiterated that rates are likely to remain on hold until 2024 ‘at the earliest’ and also expects wages would need to rise above 3 per cent to push inflation sustainably between 2-3 per cent. Wages growth is currently ~1.5 per cent.

The OPEC+ stalemate continues to keep oil prices volatile. The price of oil briefly hit a six-year high overnight, before dropping by 2.4 per cent following a strengthening US dollar. The firmer greenback weighed on most commodities including copper, nickel, aluminium, zinc and tin.

Following 27 cases identified in NSW over the past day, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed a one-week extension to the two-week lockdown. Most travel stocks are losing ground at lunch.

Challenger (CGF) is up 7.7 per cent after US group Athene Holding acquired a 15 per cent minority interest in the investment manager.

CIMIC’s (CIM) joint venture Ventia has won a $300m contract with the South Australian government. The initial contract term of five years and seven months will include asset management services for government owned facilities like schools, hospitals and police stations.

Sandfire (SFR) has secured a mining licence for its Motheo copper mine by the government of Botswana. SFR said that this is “…the last major permitting milestone required for full-scale construction of the US$279m project to commence.”

Splitit (SPT) will launch in-store with multiple new merchants including La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries, Gem Shopping Network, PROCAM, Faberge, KEF and Aftershock PC Australia.

Askari Metals (AS2) – a gold and copper miner with projects in NSW and WA – is up 20 per cent after making its ASX debut this morning.

Graincorp (GNC) trades ex-dividend on Wednesday while Fisher & Paykel (FPH) will pay eligible shareholders a dividend today.

2.7bn shares have changed hands so far worth $3.8bn. 743 stocks are up, 547 are down and 389 are unchanged.

Published by CommSec