ASX closes the week higher on trade joy

Friday, 18 January, 2019 - 15:18
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Easing US-China trade tensions have helped Australia's big miners, energy companies, and tech stocks soar as the local bourse closes the week at a new two-month high. 

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 29.5 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 5,879.6 at 1615 AEDT on Friday, while the broader All Ordinaries was 31.4 points, or 0.53 per cent, higher at 5941.2.

The Aussie dollar is also up on news that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has discussed lifting tariffs on Chinese imports, with the local currency buying 71.91 US cents from 71.58 US cents on Thursday. 

CommSec markets analyst James Tao said the renewed positivity between China and the US was a welcome development after an extended period of volatility in 2018. 

"It really might be a sign that both countries are looking to get a deal," he said. 

"Which would be great, especially because there's been enough bad news of late."

The best performing Australian sector was again the tech stocks - up more than 1.5 per cent for the day - building on a recent surge in global investor confidence, as well as a stellar session for Afterpay Touch shares.

Mr Tao said soaring tech confidence was a general reflection of the current global sentiment. 

"Tech stocks are growth stocks, so they thrive in scenarios of positivity or optimism," he said. 

"Our tech sector is a drop in the ocean compared to the US, but it certainly had a good day." 

Afterpay, the buy-now-pay-later vendor, soared more than 14 per cent after announcing a record rise in first half global underlying sales, closing 12.98 per cent higher at $16.10. 

Language tech company Appen Ltd rose 4.98 per cent to $15.59, while Altium, Link Admin Computershare each lifted by between 0.89 and 1.95 per cent. 

Online retailer Kogan.com.au was another big mover on Friday, gaining another 15.11 per cent to $4.57 after yesterday's bumper Christmas update. 

Meanwhile, the opening of a year-long inquiry into the aged-care industry has triggered falls in the share prices of nursing-home operators as investors braced for tighter regulation and a possible sector shakeout.

Aveo Group fell 1.57 per cent to $1.57, Regis Healthcare dropped 2.14 per cent to $2.75, and Japara Healthcare lost 5.35 per cent to $1.15. 

For the miners, Rio Tinto closed 0.31 per cent higher at $80.65 after announcing a two per cent rise in iron ore production and shipping for the quarter. 

Fortescue Metals was up 1.76 per cent to $4.63, BHP rose 0.73 per cent to $33.11, while Bluescope Steel went even further with a 2.97 per cent gain to $12.47. 

South32 dipped 1.16 per cent to $3.41. 

Commonwealth Bank led the big four lenders with a 0.63 per cent rise to $73.23, with Macquarie Group also lifting, adding 0.87 per cent to $118.20. 

Beach Energy was up 3.31 per cent to $1.715, New Hope Corporation rose 3.86 per cent to $3.77, Viva Energy rose 1.67 per cent to $1.83, and Whitehaven Coal was up 2.55 per cent to $4.83. 

The ASX registered four straight days in the black to close the week 1.82 per cent higher. 

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 29.5 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 5,879.6.

* The All Ordinaries was up 31.4 points, or 0.53 per cent, at 5,941.2

* At 1630 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up 33 points, or 0.57 per cent, at 5,821.0

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 71.91 US cents, from 71.58 on Thursday

* 78.67 Japanese yen, from 78.20

* 63.12 euro cents, from 63.19

* 55.40 British pence, from 55.41

* 106.33 NZ cents, from 106.30

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1630 AEDT was $US1291.45 per fine ounce, from $US1293.44 on Thursday