SYDNEY, AAP – Victoria’s newly-declared coronavirus lockdown has flattened optimism on the share market.
The ASX was trading about 0.7 per cent higher until news on Thursday that Victorians will have a seven-day lockdown from midnight.
An outbreak in Melbourne’s northern suburbs has grown to 26 cases.
Western Australia and South Australia closed borders to Victoria while other states and territories have encouraged people to reconsider travel.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up by 1.4 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 7093.9 at 1200 AEST.
The All Ordinaries was higher by 1.9 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 7333.5.
Materials shares were doing best, higher by 0.65 per cent, despite iron ore prices sliding.
BHP was up 1.05 per cent to $46.84. Fortescue gained 2.14 per cent to $21.67. Rio Tinto climbed 0.83 per cent to $119.73.
Consumer staples had the biggest fall, 0.75 per cent.
Healthcare shares were also troubled and lower by 0.61 per cent.
The latter was partly due to Fisher and Paykel Healthcare falling 8.34 per cent to $27.24.
The company in its full-year earnings report declined to give an earnings forecast due to the unpredictability of the pandemic.
Its net profit after tax was up 82 per cent after hospitals bought more supplies to combat the virus.
The final dividend of 22 cents per share was 42 per cent more than the previous equivalent payout.
Earlier, Wall Street indices had most gains after recent comments from Federal Reserve officials helped tamp down concerns about runaway inflation.
Meanwhile a Fed official said he was prepared to open talks on reducing the central bank’s emergency support measures, only to also stress the need to remain patient.
Fed officials have in recent days said inflation is transitory and the bank has the tools to clamp down on it. However, they have also edged closer to debate about reducing a massive fiscal stimulus plan.
Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said new private capital expenditure rose 6.3 per cent to $31.5 billion in the March quarter. Economist expected a 2.1 per cent increase.
Equipment, plant and machinery expenditure surged 9.1 per cent to $15.3 billion, a result that feeds directly into Wednesday’s national accounts for the March quarter.
On the ASX, fruit and vegetable grower Costa Group dived 20.04 per cent to $3.55 after company leaders outlined price pressures and a higher Aussie dollar affecting earnings.
They were speaking at the annual general meeting.
In banking, the big four were little changed.
Bendigo Bank dropped 0.48 per cent to $10.31.
The Australian dollar was buying 77.35 US cents at 1200 AEST, lower from 77.78 US cents at Wednesday’s close.