ASX closes up as Fed Reserve speech looms

Shares have finished higher on the Australian market on a reporting day that highlighted the winners and losers of the coronavirus pandemic.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed up 9.8 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 6126.2 on Thursday.

The All Ordinaries index finished higher by 16.1 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 6310.6.

The indices were higher for much of the session but fell late ahead of a keenly awaited speech from US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

Investsmart strategist Evan Lucas said the trading day was pretty flat.

He said the financial sector was negative prior to Mr Powell's speech at the central bank's annual Jackson Hole symposium.

Mr Lucas expected Mr Powell to announce a review of monetary policy had been completed, with particular interest in inflation settings.

On the ASX, the materials sector had the biggest gain, 1.22 per cent, followed by consumer discretionaries, up 1.02 per cent.

Utilities had a 1.68 per cent fall, and energy a 1.28 per cent decline.

Earlier on Thursday, business investment data showed a sharp fall in the June quarter, coinciding with the coronavirus' arrival to Australian shores and the nation entering lockdown.

June quarter private business capital expenditure tumbled 5.9 per cent to $26.1 billion, to be 11.5 per cent down on the year.

Afterpay and Woolworths made headlines for their full-year results.

Afterpay reported a more than 100 per cent lift in income and a more than doubling in customer numbers. The boom in online shopping from the pandemic has helped.

However, the company recorded a net loss of $19.8 million and is yet to turn a profit or pay a dividend.

Shares were up 0.6 per cent to $91.26.

Woolworths has benefited from panic buying at supermarkets and Big W. Its results showed total sales rose 8.1 per cent on the previous financial year to $63.7 billion.

Profit was down 1.2 per cent to $1.6 billion.

Its final dividend was 48 cents per share, fully franked, down from the 2019 fully franked final dividend of 57 cents per share.

Woolworths shares were up 2.83 per cent to $40.38.

Then there were the losers of the behavioural changes prompted by the virus.

Theme park operator Ardent Leisure reported a full-year loss of $136.6 million.

Ardent runs Dreamworld, SkyPoint and Whitewater World in Queensland as well as bowling centres in the US. It had to close all its venues in March.

Shareholders will not receive a final dividend.

Shares finished down 3.3 per cent to 44 cents.

Flight Centre said it had been on track in February to a $150 million profit, but reported a $510 million loss due to virus impact.

Shares were down 0.24 per cent at $12.58.

Nine Entertainment reported a more than half a billion annual net loss after advertising dried up early this year.

The bottom line net loss of $574.9 million for 2019/20, compared to a profit of $233.9 million in the previous year.

Shares fell 1.99 per cent to $1.72.

In mining, Fortescue Metals set a record price of $19.53 then eased to finish 3.1 per cent higher at $19.30. BHP gained 1.1 per cent to $38.44 and Rio climbed 0.84 per cent to $100.12.

Among the big banks, ANZ shed 1.13 per cent to $18.33, the Commonwealth slipped 0.83 per cent to $69.07, NAB edged lower by 1.11 per cent to $17.80 and Westpac fell 1.25 per cent to $17.40.

Companies expected to report results on Friday include Boral and Village Roadshow.

The Australian dollar was buying 72.46 US cents at 1726 AEST, up from 71.90 US cents at Wednesday's close.

ON THE ASX

* The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed up 9.8 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 6126.2 on Thursday.

* The All Ordinaries index finished higher by 16.1 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 6310.6.

* At 1726 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was trading lower by 1.0 point, or 0.02 per cent, at 6,084 points.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 72.46 US cents, from 71.93 US cents on Wednesday

* 76.78 Japanese yen, from 76.50 yen

* 61.28 Euro cents, from 60.93 cents

* 54.85 British pence, from 54.74 pence

* 109.26 NZ cents, from 109.87 cents

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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