ASX finishes flat as gold, oil soars
The ASX has bounced back from its early losses to close slightly higher, powered by strong gains by goldminers and oil producers as both commodities moved higher amid tension in the Middle East.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 61.8 points in the first 11 minutes of trading on Monday, but moved steadily higher for most of the rest of the day to close up 2.2 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 6,735.7.
The broader All Ordinaries also finished up 2.2 points, closing at 6,857.4 points.
"Overall it's been a slightly nervous day's trading," said IG market analyst Kyle Rodda, who said markets were still jittery following the fallout from Friday's US drone strike that killed a top Iranian military commander in Baghdad.
The energy sector was the biggest gainer - up 1.3 per cent - as the price of Brent crude breached the $US70-a-barrel mark for the first time since late May on the rising Mideast tension.
Woodside Petroleum gained 1.7 per cent, Santos climbed 2.1 per cent, Oil Search rose 2.4 per cent, Beach Energy gained 2.7 per cent and Karoon Energy soared 8.6 per cent.
The price of gold reached a six-month high of $US1,575 an ounce - and hit its highest level ever against the Australian dollar - pushing goldminers to multi-month highs.
Newcrest gained 3.9 per cent, Evolution gained 6.8 per cent and Saracen climbed 2.6 per cent.
Overall the mining sector was the second-biggest gainer, up 0.7 per cent, as sector heavyweight BHP - also an oil producer - gained 0.6 per cent to $39.40.
Rio Tinto was down 0.2 per cent to $101.13 while South32 gained 1.9 per cent to $2.72.
The banking sector led losers, falling 0.6 per cent, with all the big four banks lower.
Commonwealth and NAB were both down 0.7 per cent, to $79.77 and $24.55, respectively; ANZ fell 0.4 per cent to $24.63, and Westpac dipped 0.1 per cent to $24.34.
Insurance companies Suncorp, QBE and IAG were all down as well, between 1.3 and 1.7 per cent.
Among other blue-chip companies Telstra gained 0.8 per cent, Wesfarmers rose 0.9 per cent, Woolworths was down 0.1 per cent and CSL dipped 0.2 per cent.
Bega Cheese dropped 9.3 per cent to a two-week low of $3.92 after announcing that the NSW bushfires were impacting its employees and dairy farm suppliers.
Pointsbet gained 7.7 per cent to hit $5.33 - its highest level since listing on the ASX in June - after teaming with an American Indian tribe to open an sportsbook in Michigan.
The Australian dollar is buying 69.38 US cents, down from 69.63 US cents on Friday.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 2.2 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 6,735.7 points.
* The All Ordinaries was up 2.2 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 6,857.4 points.
* The SPI200 futures index closed up 13 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 6,673 points.
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT
One Australian dollar buys:
* 69.38 US cents, from 69.63 US cents on Friday
* 74.96 Japanese yen, from 75.28 yen
* 62.15 euro cents, from 62.34 cents
* 53.03 British pence, from 53.05 pence
* 104.31 NZ cents, from 104.37 cents
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