ASX has modest gains, helped by weaker AUD

Shares closed at their highest level on the Australian market in more than a week, as a weaker Aussie dollar helped the indices buck downcast sentiment overseas.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed up by 11.8 points, or 0.17 per cent, to 6790.6 on Thursday.

The index reached a session high of 6806 at about 1200 AEDT, but fell in the last couple of hours to be negative in the final minutes of trade.

A sharp climb after the close of trade gave investors their third day of gains in four.

The All Ordinaries closed higher by 8.7 points, or 0.12 per cent, to 7022.6.

The health sector was best and gained 1.01 per cent. Consumer discretionaries was next, up 0.67 per cent.

ThinkMarkets analyst Carl Capolingua said the weaker Aussie dollar helped the market. This makes shares cheaper for investors overseas.

The Aussie dollar traded as high as 78 US cents last week after US Federal Reserve officials projected a jump in US economic growth this year as the COVID-19 recession eases.

Yet the greenback has improved over the past few days, and the Aussie has traded as low as 75 US cents.

Mr Capolingua said the weaker Aussie dollar also helped the health sector.

Companies such as CSL, Cochlear and Ramsay have significant overseas earnings, which Mr Capolingua said would mean more in profits once those earnings were converted to Aussie dollars.

Market heavyweight CSL was up 1.43 per cent to $269.83.

Earlier, US markets closed lower and the Nasdaq dropped more than two per cent.

Investors were worried by the prospect of a third wave of coronavirus in Europe, and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's comments a day earlier about possible tax hikes to fund economic stimulus.

A ship aground in Egypt's Suez Canal, blocking the busy route, was causing concern about oil supply. Oil prices rose on the possibility of a shortage.

On the ASX, the oil supply predicament gave a lift of 0.28 per cent to the energy sector. Beach was up 1.75 per cent to $1.74.

AMP shares paused trading, pending an announcement.

The Australian Financial Review reported chief executive Francesco De Ferrari was due to resign.

Shares last traded lower by 3.79 per cent to $1.33.

Investment group Washington H Soul Pattinson reported a first-half profit increase of 35 per cent.

The company said a reduction in write-downs helped net profit after tax rise to $68.9 million.

Shareholders will receive a fully franked interim dividend of 26 cents per share, up from a previous interim payout of 25 cents per share.

Shares hit a record high of $32.10, then closed higher by 4.26 per cent to $32.29.

Payments provider Humm said customers spent $120 million in the past 12 months on healthcare using its buy now, pay later service.

The company allows much greater credit limits than other buy now, pay later providers, and said the average transaction was more than $4,000.

Humm has more than 3,500 businesses using the service across dental, pharmacy, audiology and other industries.

Shares were up 1.56 per cent to 97 cents.

In mining, Rio Tinto was a notable loser, down 1.55 per cent to $108.00. BHP was unchanged at $44.88 and Fortescue gained 0.31 per cent to $19.41.

In banking, NAB was best and rose 0.5 per cent to $25.97.

The Australian dollar was buying 75.95 US cents at 1720 AEDT, lower from 75.98 US cents at Wednesday's close.

ON THE ASX

* The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed up by 11.8 points, or 0.17 per cent, to 6790.6 on Thursday.

* The All Ordinaries closed higher by 8.7 points, or 0.12 per cent, to 7022.6.

* At 1720 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was higher by three points, or 0.04 per cent, and trading at 6757 points.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 75.95 US cents, from 75.98 cents on Wednesday

* 82.77 Japanese yen, from 82.31 yen

* 64.27 Euro cents, from 64.09 cents

* 55.50 British pence, from 55.34 pence

* 108.94 NZ cents, from 108.80 cents.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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