Market buoyed by US-China optimism
The local sharemarket has been buoyed by optimism that the US and China are close to reaching a trade deal. It follows a tweet by US President Donald Trump that it had been a ‘very good weekend’ of talks between US and Chinese negotiators and that he was ‘delaying the US increase in tariffs now scheduled for March 1’. The ASX 200 (XJO) is up 9 points or 0.2% to 6,176.
In earnings news, QBE Insurance (QBE) shares are up 3.4% to $11.87 after the company reported full-year net profit of US$390 million, thanks to “significantly reduced’ catastrophe claims. QBE said attritional claims for FY18 were lower across all divisions compared to FY17, when it posted a US$1.25 billion loss following hurricanes and wildfires in the US.
Lendlease (LLC) shares have fallen 4.7% to $13.52 after property the property and infrastructure group reported a 96.3% slump in first-half profit to $15.7 million. LLC is now looking to offload its troubled engineering and services unit, after a review deemed it a “non-core” part of the business.
BlueScope Steel (BSL) shares are rallying 6.3% to $13.13 after it reported a 42% jump in first-half profit to $624.3 million. The result was boosted by strong steel prices in the US and Australia.
 Boral’s (BLD) first-half profit excluding significant items fell 6.4% to $200.2 million after the building materials supplier was hit by heavy rain in both the US and Australia. BLD said rising infrastructure activity helped offset softer residential construction in Australia, but the rain dampened its result. BLD shares are down 2.5% to $4.835.
G8 Education (GEM) shares have slid 12.7% to $3.17 after the childcare provider reported an 11% fall in FY18 profit to $71.8 million. GEM blamed poor-performances from its newly acquired business. Elsewhere, Appen (APX) shares have surged 18.8% to $22.34 after the tech company almost tripled its FY18 net profit to $41.7 million.
 Brambles (BXB) shares are up 1.8% to $11.80 after announcing the sale of its reusable plastic containers business IFCO for US$US2.5 billion. The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to be completed before the middle of 2019. BXB intends to return US$1.95 billion of proceeds from the sale to shareholders.
Shares in Afterpay Touch (APT) and Zip Money (Z1P) are climbing 16% and 8.3% respectively on the back of news recommendations from the Senate Estimates Committee inquiry into the buy now pay later sector are not expected to have a material impact on their businesses.
 1.02bn shares have been traded, worth $1.97bn. 539 stocks are higher, 425 are weaker, while 339 are unchanged.
CommSec analysis of the companies which have reported interim results so far this February earnings season shows only 50% of have lifted profits compared with a year ago. View the report.Published by CommSec