- The S&P/ASX200 rose 8 points or 0.11% to hit a new closing high of 7,394.4.
- The market was supported by solid gains in health care and tech stocks.
- New South Wales recorded 136 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, the highest since Delta variant outbreak began last month.
- Nickel Mines was the top gainer on the ASX, while Silver Lake Resources was the top laggard.
Australian shares settled marginally higher in Friday’s choppy trade, but still managed to set a record closing high on Friday, led by solid gains in health care and tech stocks.
The S&P/ASX200 rose 8 points or 0.11% to hit a new closing high of 7,394.4 points. Over the last five sessions, the benchmark index has gained 0.63%.
Earlier today, the ASX200 opened lower and fell as much as 0.4% to touch an intraday low of 7,357, undermining firm cues from Wall Street. After strong rally in the past two sessions, the equity market witnessed subdued trade today as the rise in COVID-19 cases and a delay in vaccine rollout dampened sentiment.
However, the market staged smart recovery in the final hour of the day’s trade despite resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the country. The state of New South Wales has recorded 136 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours, compared to 124 registered on Thursday. This is the highest daily case tally since the highly contagious Delta variant outbreak began last month.
Top gainers and losers
Among individual stocks, mineral exploration firm Nickel Mines (ASX: NIC) was the top percentage gainer on the ASX, rising 6.75%. Some of the other notable gainers were tech firm Nuix (ASX: NXL), gold miner Evolution Mining Limited (ASX: EVN) and global online marketplace Redbubble (ASX: RBL).
On the flip side, gold miner Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR) was the top loser on the ASX, falling 8.65%. Some of the other worst performers include fellow gold stock Northern Star Resources Limited (ASX:NST), media firm Nine Entertainment (ASX: NEC), energy firm Santos (ASX:STO) and casino operator Crown Resorts (ASX: CWN).
Here’s how the sectoral indices performed today
The market breadth, which indicates the market's overall strength, was mixed with seven of the 11 sectoral indices ending in the green. The health care sector was the best performer with over 1% gain, followed by information technology which rose 0.87%. Among others, consumer discretionary, consumer staples and A-REIT ended marginal gains.
Meanwhile, the energy sector emerged as the worst performer with a 1% loss. Financial, utilities and material sectors also ended in the red zone.
In the technology space, ASX-listed buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) shares were among the top gainers today. The sector leader Afterpay Limited (ASX:APT), Zip Co Ltd (ASX:Z1P) and Sezzle Inc. (ASX:SZL) ended higher. Among others, software firms Nuix (ASX: NXL) and Altium (ASX:ALU) also settled in the green zone.
Moving on to the energy space, index heavyweights Woodside Petroleum (ASX: WPL), Beach Energy Limited (ASX:BPT), Santos (ASX:STO), Oil Search (ASX:OSH) were under stress today, owing to fall in crude oil futures prices. September delivery crude oil futures traded 0.4% down at US$71.61 per barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was also hovering around US$71.6 a barrel.
Talking about miners, heavyweight explorer BHP Group (ASX:BHP) slipped in the red, snapping its two-session gaining streak. Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) also ended lower, while Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) ended marginally higher.
In the yellow metal space, Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR) was the worst performer. Gold mining stocks such as Northern Star Resources Limited (ASX:NST), St Barbara Limited (ASX:SBM), WestGold Resources Ltd (ASX:WGX) and Ramelius Resources Limited (ASX:RMS) also closed lower. Bucking the trend, gold miner Evolution Mining was among the top gainers on the ASX.
In the banking sector, all the Australia’s big four lenders - Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Westpac Banking Corporation and National Australia Bank – ended in the red zone.
Asian markets stay under stress
The Asian markets were trading mostly lower on Friday as investors tracked Chinese tech stocks in Hong Kong after regulatory concerns resurfaced.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was the worst performer in the region, falling nearly 1% amid sharp selling in tech stocks. Shares of Hong Kong-listed Chinese tech firms were among top losers.
In a similar trend, China’s Shanghai Composite was also down 0.65%. As per a Bloomberg report, Beijing is considering harsh penalties on ride-hailing giant Didi, which recently made its debut on the US stock exchange.
In overnight trade on Thursday, US stocks closed marginally higher as investors weighed a sudden spike in unemployment benefits claims and threats from COVID-19’s Delta mutant. The S&P 500 rose 0.20% and the Dow Jones gained 0.07%, while the NASDAQ Composite added 0.36%.