ASX higher but eases on jobless warning

Shares were higher by about 0.6 per cent on the Australian market after US markets closed higher on good earnings reports and anticipation of more economic stimulus from the government.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was higher by 37.0 points, or 0.62 per cent, at 6038.3 points at 1200 AEST on Thursday.

The All Ordinaries index was higher by 40.1 points, or 0.65 per cent, at 6176.0.

The market appeared to have eased since Prime Minister Scott Morrison at 1130 AEST said tighter coronavirus restrictions in Victoria will lead to as many as 400,000 people losing their job or seeing their hours reduced to zero and a 10 per cent national jobless rate by year’s end.

Tough workplace restrictions came into effect in Melbourne overnight as part of stage four restrictions to slow the virus’ spread through the city.

Retailers have largely closed to customers and construction and manufacturing is being scaled back.

The materials and energy sectors led gains, up 2.22 and 1.74 per cent respectively, due to higher commodity prices.

Health shares had the biggest slump, down 0.83 per cent, followed by utilities, lower by 0.68 per cent.

AMP Australia chief executive Alex Wade has resigned a week after the financial services giant announced its first-half profits had halved.

AMP accepted his resignation with immediate effect.

Blair Vernon from New Zealand Wealth Management will act as head of the Australian division in the interim.

AMP shares were trading higher by 1.4 per cent to $1.44.

Sleep apnea company ResMed fell 5.04 per cent to $26.54 after investors expected more from its fourth quarter results, which included net operating profit higher by 40 per cent.

Scentre Group, the owner of Westfield shopping centres, was lower by 3.05 per cent to $1.90 after it said it expected the value of its property portfolio to decline by 10 per cent when it gives its half-year results next month.

Management and board members have also reverted to full pay and fees, after taking reduced pay from May 1 due to the COVID-19 impact.

In mining, BHP was up 4.16 per cent to $39.53, Rio Tinto gained 1.43 per cent to $105.48 and Fortescue rose by 1.37 per cent to $18.55.

In banking, ANZ rose 0.92 per cent to $17.62, the Commonwealth edged lower by 0.01 per cent to $71.69, NAB gained 0.24 per cent to $16.95 and Westpac was higher by 0.54 per cent to $16.72.

US markets provided a positive lead after good earnings reports, notably Disney, and anticipation of more financial support from the government for an economy battling the impact of the pandemic.

Investors say such a package is crucial and needs to arrive quickly, with millions of Americans still out of work and $US600 in weekly unemployment benefits from the US government having recently expired.

The S&P 500 climbed 21.26 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 3,327.77, echoing gains for stocks across Europe and Asia. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 373.05, or 1.4 per cent, to 27,201.52, and the Nasdaq composite added 57.23, or 0.5 per cent, to set another record at 10,998.40.

The Australian dollar was buying 71.96 US cents at 1200 AEST, up from 71.79 US cents at Wednesday’s close.

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