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Despite a messy start to the session the ASX 200 is up by 0.4 per cent at lunch, enough to recoup Monday’s losses whil keeping local equities near four-month highs. Investors seem a little cautious ahead of US-China trade talks scheduled to kick off this Thursday in Beijing.
Most sectors are improving, with strong gains from financials, healthcare and mining stocks helping most.
Miners are managing to lift despite softer commodity prices which were weighed down by a firmer USD. Iron ore continues to be the big mover, slumping by 4.2 per cent or $4 to US$90.20/t last night. The metal remains near two-year highs and has surged by 14 per cent in two weeks following a deadly mining accident in Brazil. The collapse of a tailings dam was at a Vale owned site; the world’s largest iron ore mining company. Uncertainty remains about how Brazilian regulators will respond and intervene. There is as much as 20 per cent of its output currently on hold.
Macquarie (MQG) is the strongest improver among the financials, lifting by close to 3 per cent after maintaining its guidance (earnings goals) for the year. The investment bank is targeting profits to grow as much as 15 per cent in FY19.
Transurban (TCL) is down by 2.3 per cent after the toll road operator announced a 56 per cent slide in half year profit to $145m. Earnings were held by back in part by costs associated with its 51 per cent ($9.3bn) acquisition of Sydney’s WestConnex. Insurance Australia Group (IAG) is down 1.4 per cent as the company behind NRMA trades ex-dividend. IAG will pay eligible investors a 12c interim dividend on 20 March. Commonwealth Bank (CBA) will trade ex-dividend on Wednesday.
Bendigo & Adelaide Bank (BEN) is down 1.7 per cent as investors continue to respond to its underwhelming half year results out on Monday.
 Power company, Spark Infrastructure (SKI) continues its rough start to the week after cutting its dividend forecasts due to an adverse court ruling on Monday.
Pact Group (PGH) is down 6.5 per cent after the packaging company warned of $310-$340m in impairment charges due to challenging trading conditions and a softer outlook for its Australian business.
797.8m shares have changed hands so far worth $2bn. 476 stocks are up, 387 down and 374 are unchanged. Published by CommSec