ASX rallies to best day in four weeks
The local bourse has enjoyed its best single day in nearly a month, climbing back over 7,000 following a strong lead from Wall Street.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Thursday up 73.1 points, or 1.05 per cent, at 7,049.2, while the broader All Ordinaries index closed up 67.8 points, or 0.96 per cent, to 7,148.7.
It was the ASX200's third straight day of gains and the most since a 90.7-point, 1.35 per cent rally on January 7.
The market spiked at the open, slid lower for most of three hours and then climbed again, finishing on the day's highs after word that China would halve its retaliatory tariffs on $US75 billion worth of US imports.
"It's been a very strong day on the market," said Australian Stock Report senior advisor Tom Armstrong.
But he said the market would still be volatile and "jumping around", susceptible to news on the coronavirus.
"What we're advising clients to do is shift to a little bit defensive, higher paying dividend utility players," Mr Armstrong said.
Energy stocks were the biggest gainers on Thursday after a dismal start to the week, as the price of Brent crude rose 1.2 per cent to $US56 a barrel.
Woodside Petroleum gained 2.7 per cent, while Santos, Beach Energy and Caltex Australia were all up between 1.5 and 1.6 per cent.
Agricultural stocks had their day in the sun with much-needed rain either falling or forecast in large parts of Australia.
Elders gained 6.1 per cent, fruit and veg producer Costa Group was up 3.0 per cent, agricultural chemical company Nufarm rose 4.3 per cent, Graincorp rose 2.9 per cent and nut grower Select Harvest rose 3.4 per cent.
The financial sector was the second biggest gainer, rising 1.4 per cent as all four big banks climbed higher.
Commonwealth rose 1.1 per cent to $84.23, ANZ gained 1.1 per cent to $26.11, NAB rose 1.3 per cent to $25.95 and Westpac climbed 1.7 per cent to $25.16.
Pinnacle Investment Management Group soared 11.2 per cent to an eight-month high of $5.57 after announcing its half-year net profit after tax rose 36.6 per cent to $13.8 million.
Other fund managers gained in turn, with Magellan Financial up 3.6 per cent, Pendal Group up 3.5 per cent, Janus Henderson up 7.1 per cent, Hub24 up 5.0 per cent and Australian Ethical up 4.9 per cent.
The heavyweight mining sector was up 1.2 per cent, with BHP rising 1.7 per cent to $39.54, Rio Tinto climbing 0.7 per cent to $99.14 and South32 up 2.7 per cent to $2.66.
Blood products and influenza vaccine giant CSL climbed 1.6 per cent to $320.62, closing above the $320 mark for the first time ever amid hopes its technology could help in fight the coronavirus.
CSL shares are up 16.3 per cent on the year and it is close to displacing Commonwealth Bank as the most valuable company by ASX-listed market capitalisation, worth $143.2 billion to CBA's $147.4 billion.
"What can you say about CSL," Mr Armstrong asked. "It's just a monster of a company, really."
Elsewhere in the healthcare space, Biotron jumped 22 per cent to 10 cents after the small Sydney biotech company said it would test compounds it has been researching in the fight against HIV/AIDS to see how they fared against the coronavirus.
Utilities and property were the only sectors to decline, with real estate the hardest hit, falling 0.3 per cent as Mirvac dropped 3.2 per cent to $3.33 as first-half net profit slipped 5.0 per cent.
Nick Scali rose 10.8 per cent to an all-time closing high of $8 after the furniture retailer beat its underlying first-half profit guidance.
The Australian dollar meanwhile was buying 67.59 US cents, up from 67.36 US cents on Wednesday.
In cryptocurrency, Bitcoins were trading for around $A14,200 on Australian exchanges, up 4.2 per cent from Wednesday and at their highest level since late October.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished up 73.1 points, or 1.05 per cent, at 7,049.2 points.
* The All Ordinaries closed up 67.8 points, or 0.96 per cent, at 7,148.7 points.
* At 1653 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up 72 points, or 1.94 per cent, at 6,980 points.
One Australian dollar buys:
* 67.16 US cents, from 67.16 US cents on Wednesday
* 73.07 Japanese yen, from 73.07 yen
* 60.73 euro cents, from 60.73 cents
* 51.60 British pence, from 51.60 pence
* 103.86 NZ cents, from 103.86 cents.
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