(Australian Associated Press)
ASX investors can almost claim gains for 2020, after the share market closed within a point of where it started the year.
The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed higher by 39.2 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 6683.3 on Wednesday.
The index was at 6684.1 on January 1, before the first session of the year.
The All Ordinaries on Wednesday closed up 32.7 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 6888.2.
Investors flocked to energy stocks (up 2.77 per cent) and financials (up 1.88 per cent) as optimism continued from promising test results of coronavirus vaccines by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
US President Donald Trump’s apparent willingness to comply with the formal transfer of power has helped investor sentiment.
CMC Markets chief strategist Michael McCarthy said oil prices were the reason for the popularity of energy stocks.
Oil prices rose four per cent overnight on hopes a vaccine will reinvigorate demand for travel.
Mr McCarthy outlined more reasons why investors opted for energy and financials.
“One of the things energy and financials have in common is they are beaten-up stocks,” he said.
“There could be an element of value-buying here.
“Their lower share prices relative to the rest of the market makes them easier to buy.”
November has been a great month for investors. The ASX200 has risen 12.75 per cent following vaccine progress and US president-elect Joe Biden’s triumph at the polls.
However, Mr McCarthy was wary the battle with the virus was far from over.
“In some areas of Europe and the US, we’re seeing record infection rates,” he said.
“We might see health services overwhelmed.
“If we get reports people are dying because there are not enough beds, I wonder if that would change investors’ thinking.”
Meanwhile, construction work completed in the September quarter fell 2.6 per cent, led by a sizeable drop in Victorian activity due to strict COVID-19 restrictions.
Economists had forecast a 1.9 per cent decline.
In Victoria, construction fell by 5.7 per cent to $14 billion during the period, only beaten by the ACT, albeit on a much smaller scale, where work was down 8.7 per cent to $894 million.
On the ASX, Origin Energy was one of the big firms benefiting from the rise in oil prices. Shares rose 3.96 per cent to $5.25.
Harvey Norman has boosted Australian sales revenue by 30 per cent since July 1.
However, management remains cautious about the outlook due to the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused, and continues to cause, great uncertainty about the future economy,” the company said.
Shares were down 2.55 per cent to $4.58.
Clothing multinational Kathmandu revealed a 24.1 per cent decline in retail sales so far this financial year as coronavirus restrictions lingered in Australia and overseas.
The calculation for the 16 weeks to November 15 includes three months of Rip Curl sales prior to Kathmandu’s purchase of the surfwear business.
Shares were down 4.18 per cent to $1.26.
Gold, typically viewed as a safe bet by investors, was unpopular among the buoyant mood.
Gold miner Evolution lost 2.2 per cent to $4.88.
In other mining, BHP gained 3.03 per cent to $39.46, Rio Tinto climbed 1.12 per cent to $104.28 and Fortescue rose 2.82 per cent to $18.60.
NAB was best of the big four banks, up 3.09 per cent to $24.05.
Earlier, US markets closed higher and the Dow Jones benchmark passed 30,000 points as investors cheered vaccine progress.
The Aussie dollar was buying 73.36 US cents at 1717 AEDT, higher from 73.14 US cents at Tuesday’s close.
ON THE ASX
- The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed higher by 39.2 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 6683.3 on Wednesday.
- The All Ordinaries closed up 32.7 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 6888.2.
- At 1717 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up two points, or 0.03 per cent, to 6679.
One Australian dollar buys:
- 73.36 US cents, from 73.14 US cents on Tuesday
- 76.65 Japanese yen, from 76.43 yen
- 61.66 Euro cents, from 61.76 cents
- 54.97 British pence, from 54.87 pence
- 105.30 NZ cents, from 104.98 cents.