Energy, banks drag down listless ASX

The Australian share market has dipped modestly for a second day as oil prices slid, even as a surging trade surplus bolstered the mining sector.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index finished Thursday down 20.4 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 5,364.2, while the All Ordinaries index was down 14.9 points, or 0.27 per cent, at 5,449.9.

"It was a negative day, as expected, because we had sour leads from the get-go," said Bell Direct market analyst Jessica Amir, referring to a drop on Wall Street as oil prices fell two per cent.

But the mining sector was bolstered by news that Australia's trade surplus more than doubled in March to a seasonally adjusted $10.6 billion, as iron ore exports jumped while imports fell.

Ms Amir called it a "phenomenal piece of economic data" that was better than analyst expectations.

Iron ore giant Fortescue Metals rose 1.7 per cent to $11.45, BHP gained 1.9 per cent to $31 but Rio Tinto dropped 0.6 per cent to $81.51 as the mining giant held its annual general meeting.

Goldminers were mixed, with Newcrest down 2.9 per cent and Northern Star falling 0.5 per cent, while Evolution rose 2.7 per cent.

All the big banks were down for a second day, with CBA dropping 1.8 per cent to $59.26, Westpac falling 2.3 per cent to $15.60 and NAB and ANZ both declining 2.2 per cent, to $16.22 and $15.85, respectively.

Insurer NIB's shares gained 2.1 per cent to $4.92 after reporting a COVID-19-related 22 per cent drop in sales of health insurance in April, although it said the lost revenue may be offset by fewer claims.

The energy sector dropped 1.1 per cent as Woodside fell 1.4 per cent to $21.65 and Santos dropped 1.9 per cent, although Beach Energy rose 2.0 per cent following its presentation to international investors at the Macquarie Australia conference.

Warehouse owner Goodman Group rose 3.8 per cent to $14.11 after reaffirming its fiscal 2020 guidance in a third-quarter operational update

Ramsay Health Care fell 0.9 per cent to $62 after finalising its agreement with the state of Queensland to make its facilities available to the state during the coronavirus pandemic.

Vodafone Australia co-owner Hutchison rose 7.1 per cent to 15 cents after Vodafone's merger with TPG Telecom got the green light from the Foreign Investment Review Board, although TPG shares dropped 1.8 per cent to $7.20.

Sezzle soared 14.3 per cent to $2.08 after the buy now, pay later company reported that underlying merchant sales rose 321 per cent in the first quarter.

Blood products giant CSL gained 0.4 per cent to $307.93 after raising $1.2 billion in debt through a private placement.

Pub and bottle shop owner Redcape Hotel Group rose 7.8 per cent as speculation rose about bars and restaurants soon reopening.

One Australian dollar was buying 64.54 US cents, up from 64.45 US cents on Wednesday's close.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed Thursday down 20.4 points, or 0.38 per cent, at 5,364.2 points

* The All Ordinaries closed down 14.9 points, or 0.27 per cent, at 5,449.9 points

* At 1734 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was up 10 points, or 0.19 per cent, at 5,378 points

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 64.54 US cents, from 64.45 US cents on Wednesday

* 68.64 Japanese yen, from 68.51 yen

* 59.74 euro cents, from 59.52 cents

* 52.10 British pence, from 51.78 pence

* 106.77 NZ cents, from 106.31 cents.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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