The Australian sharemarket eased back most of its gains in the afternoon session but managed to remain in positive territory. At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.2 per cent or 16.2 points higher at 7256.
Across the sectors, 8 out of eleven closed in the green. Communication services charged ahead as best performer, up 1.8 per cent, followed by real estate, up 0.9 per cent, then consumer staples and technology, both up 0.7 per cent. The worst-performing sector was utilities, down 1.2 per cent.
Restaurant operator Collins Foods (ASX:CKF) led the gains, rising 12.6 per cent after reporting on first half results.
In company news, debt buyer Credit Corp (ASX:CCP) closed 9 per cent higher, after acquiring the assets of Radio Rentals from Thorn Group. Financial services provider AMP (ASX:AMP) closed 4.7 per cent higher after outlining plans to demerge its private markets business in the first half of 2022.
Travel stocks rebounded from yesterday as investors shook off Omicron fears around the globe. Flight Centre (ASX:FLT) closed 4.6 per cent higher, Webjet (ASX:WEB) closed 5.2 per cent higher and Corporate Travel Management (ASX:CTD) closed 5 per cent higher.
The major banks closed mixed. The Commonwealth (ASX:CBA) fell 0.4 per cent. Westpac (ASX:WBC) fell 1 per cent following civil proceedings with ASIC. Meanwhile, ANZ (ASX:ANZ) closed 1.4 per cent higher and NAB (ASX:NAB) closed 0.7 per cent higher.
Shopping centre owners Scentre (ASX:SCG) and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (ASX:URW) also eased back losses from yesterday, closing 1.6 and 2.1 per cent higher.
Legal finance services provider Omni Bridgeway (ASX:OBL) closed 6.7 per cent higher and lithium miner Orocobre (ASX:ORE) closed 8.3 per cent higher. Both companies held their annual general meeting today.
Weighing on the market was gold miner St Barbara (ASX:SBM), closing 4.3 per cent lower, Perseus Mining (ASX:PRU) closing 3.5 per cent lower and ear specialist Cochlear (ASX:COH) closing 3.9 per cent lower.
Local economic news
ANZ and Roy Morgan released the weekly consumer confidence index which dropped 1.4 points to 106.0 on the final weekend of November as a new Covid-19 variant known as the ‘Omicron variant’ emerged in southern Africa. Consumer confidence is now below the 2021 weekly average of 108.1 and now 1.5 points below the same week a year ago, November 28/29, 2020 (107.5).
Consumer confidence this week was down in Victoria, Queensland and WA, while increasing slightly in NSW and SA. This week’s small decrease was driven by Australian’s becoming less confident about the prospects for the economy over the next five years.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the balance of payments report along with building approvals and government finance figures.
Balance of payments report: The current account surplus, seasonally adjusted, rose $1,016 million to $23,886 million. The capital and financial account deficit fell $2,610 million to $21,835 million. Australia’s net IIP liability position was $860,149 million at 30 September 2021.
Building approvals: The seasonally adjusted estimate for total dwellings approved fell 12.9 billion in October. Private sector houses rose 4.3 per cent, while private sector dwellings excluding houses fell 37.5 per cent. The value of non-residential building approved fell 20.9 per cent.
Government finance figures: Taxation revenue fell -16.8 per cent to $142.6 billion. General government net operating balance fell -$47.6 billion to -$45.4 billion. General government borrowing was $52.5 billion total public demand is expected to contribute 0.7ppt to the quarterly change in GDP.
The Reserve Bank scheduled the financial aggregates publication while the Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Guy Debelle made an online speech at the ACI Australia conference.
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Westpac (ASX:WBC) has reached agreement with Australia’s corporate watchdog to resolve six civil penalty proceedings filed against them, submitting to the court that combined penalties of $113 million to Westpac is appropriate.
Financial services provider AMP (ASX:AMP) says its on track to demerge its AMP Capital Private Markets business (PrivateMarketsCo) in the first half of 2022.
Credit Corp (ASX:CCP) has acquired the assets of Radio Rentals from financial services provider Thorn Group (ASX:TGA) for $60 million.
Automotive company GUD (ASX:GUD) has entered a share purchase agreement to acquire AutoPacific Group (APG) for $744.6 million.
Biome Australia (ASX:BIO) listed on the ASX today. Their shares issued at $0.20, started trading at $0.13 and closed flat at $0.12.
Winsome Resources (ASX:WR1) listed on the ASX today. Their shares issued at $0.20 and closed flat at $0.26.
The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 29.00 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 1.50 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a rise of 3.00 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 55 points when the market next opens.
Best and worst performers
The best-performing sector was Communication Services, up 1.84 per cent. The worst-performing sector was Utilities, down 1.17 per cent.
The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Collins Foods (ASX:CKF), closing 12.62 per cent higher at $14.10. It was followed by shares in Credit Corp Group (ASX:CCP) and Orocobre (ASX:ORE).
The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was St Barbara (ASX:SBM), closing 4.26 per cent lower at $1.35. It was followed by shares in Perseus Mining (ASX:PRU) and Cochlear (ASX:COH).
Japan’s Nikkei has gained 0.45 per cent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has lost 1.14 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has gained 0.26 per cent.
Commodities and the dollar
Gold is trading at US$1791.15 an ounce.
Iron ore is 3.4 per cent higher at US$99.95 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 1.4 per cent.
Light crude is trading $0.30 higher at US$70.25 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 71.25 US cents.