Aust shares rise early on vaccine hopes

Shares have risen on the Australian market after encouraging news of a coronavirus vaccine helped US markets close higher.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was higher by 43.0 points, or 0.72 per cent, at 6044.6 points after the first 30 minutes of trade on Tuesday.

The All Ordinaries index was 46.1 points, or 0.75 per cent higher, at 6158.4.

Most sectors were higher and information technology was roaring, up 3.36 per cent.

Technology stocks on the Nasdaq surged as part of the markets’ rise overnight.

The next best ASX industry gain was health, up 2.08 per cent.

Consumer discretionaries rose 0.92 per cent.

The lower sectors were energy and utilities, down 0.25 and 0.51 per cent respectively.

BHP has posted a 7.0 per cent rise in fourth-quarter iron ore output but warns a rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic threatens short-term demand.

Shares in the miner dropped 0.21 per cent to $38.30.

Its big rivals fared better: Rio gained 0.33 per cent to $105.46 and Fortescue rose 0.98 per cent to $16.42.

There was plenty of news in the energy sector. Oil Search has reported a near 30 per cent drop in second-quarter revenue, hurt by a sharp decline in oil and gas prices as demand plunged due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, investors did not mind and the share price rose 0.5 per cent to $3.02.

Santos said it will book non-cash impairments of up to $US800 million ($A1.1 billion), joining those energy majors forced to write down assets after a coronavirus-induced slump in oil prices.

Its shares fell 0.39 per cent to $5.14.

Kogan shares were up 2.42 per cent to $17.76 after the online shopping business said fourth-quarter profit rose by 115 per cent. The figure is still to be revealed.

Technology companies enjoying gains of more than 4.0 per cent included software providers Afterpay ($72.33), Altium ($34.47) and Sezzle ($6.76).

Drug test results from AstraZenica, CanSino Biologics, and a partnership between Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech gave hope to US markets that the pandemic could eventually come to an end.

The drug results come after United States’ deaths from the virus passed the 140,000 mark at the weekend and cases continued to rise in 42 of 50 states.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.03 per cent to 26,680.87, the S&P 500 gained 0.84 per cent to 3,251.84 and the Nasdaq Composite added 2.51 per cent, to 10,767.09.

The Australian dollar was trading at 70.27 US cents at 1030 AEST, up from 69.88 US cents at Monday’s close.

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