ASX extends highest close since Feb 2020

Australia's share market has closed at its highest level since February 2020 for a second day, and is nearing the record.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed higher by 35.5 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 7058.6.

The index traded lower for the first two hours but soon moved higher for most of the session.

The ASX200 is a little more than 100 points from its record close of 7162.49, set on February 20 last year.

The record was set days before investors rushed to sell stocks due to fear of the coronavirus impact.

The All Ordinaries on Thursday closed up by 36.9 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 7317.5 points.

The market milestone followed earlier news Australia's March unemployment rate had unexpectedly dropped to 5.6 per cent.

This was despite employers preparing for the JobKeeper wage subsidy to expire in the same month.

Deep Data Analytics chief executive Mathan Somasundaram was unsure whether the jobs data spurred buying on the market.

He said the ASX200 index's gradual upward movement on Thursday showed signs of a global investor executing a programmed order, likely for the currency trade.

Mr Somasundaram wondered whether the ASX200 could break its record soon.

"The real test will be next week because you will get all the fund managers coming back to work (from Easter holidays)," he said.

"Everyone will be looking at the numbers, and particularly US reporting season."

US reporting season began overnight, with US banks producing solid results.

Wall Street indices closed mostly lower. The Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 fell despite a record intraday high for the latter.

In ASX trade, the materials and energy sectors soared by 1.83 per cent and 1.18 per cent respectively.

Financials rose 0.43 per cent.

The biggest loss was in utilities, 0.89 per cent.

Bank of Queensland posted increases in first-half cash earnings and profit, and said its retail business has improved through a growing number of home loans.

The bank reported cash earnings after tax rose nine per cent to $165 million.

Net profit after tax surged by 66 per cent to $154 million.

Shares were lower by 0.79 per cent to $8.83.

Its big four rivals all gained less than one per cent. Westpac was best, up 0.67 per cent to $25.50.

Fuel provider Ampol reported first quarter earnings rose to $150 million from $142 million in the same quarter last year.

The fuels and infrastructure earnings rose 11 per cent to $85 million, which boss Matt Halliday said was a strong result given increases in crude oil prices.

He said he expected to see greater demand for fuel in Australia as the year progresses.

Shares were up 5.41 per cent to $25.73.

Qantas in a trading update said demand for domestic flights was expected to be close to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year.

Company leaders are planning on Australia's borders opening in late October to allow travel beyond New Zealand.

Boss Alan Joyce said Qantas still faced a massive financial loss this year.

Shares were down 0.19 per cent to $5.20.

In mining, BHP rose 2.87 per cent to $47.33, Fortescue gained 3.51 per cent to $20.95 and Rio Tinto climbed 2.96 per cent to $117.71.

The Australian dollar was buying 77.38 US cents at 1718 AEST, higher from 76.76 US cents at Wednesday's close.

ON THE ASX

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed higher by 35.5 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 7058.6.

* The All Ordinaries on Thursday closed up by 36.9 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 7317.5 points.

* At 1718 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was up by four points, or 0.06 per cent, to 7040.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 77.38 US cents, from 76.76 cents on Wednesday

* 84.26 Japanese yen, from 83.64 yen

* 64.58 Euro cents, from 64.19 cents

* 56.12 British pence, from 55.68 pence

* 107.99 NZ cents, from 108.19 cents.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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