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ASX closes above 6900, BHP payout delights

·4-min read

Australia's share market closed above 6900 points for the first time since February last year, and an analyst expects it will rally in the short term as coronavirus vaccines are distributed.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed higher by 48.4 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 6917.3.

The index is near the record close of 7162.49, set in February last year, just before stocks tumbled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The All Ordinaries on Tuesday closed better by 39.6 points, or 0.55 per cent, at 7189.3.

The top sector was energy, up 2.1 per cent, as vaccine programs around the world give hope for higher oil consumption.

Industrials was the next best sector, up 1.92 per cent.

While there was no lead from the US, where markets were closed due to the Presidents Day holiday, Bell Direct market analyst Jessica Amir believed investors would have been happy with coronavirus progress here and abroad.

Australia's medical regulator approved a second coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for millions of jabs to be administered in coming months.

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set a timetable for easing restrictions in England from March.

"The sun is shining through the clouds. US coronavirus cases are down too," Ms Amir said.

"It looks like things are really starting to improve."

She said from a technical perspective, the market was trading above 15 and 30-day averages.

"So the market looks like it will rally in the short term."

There was better news in Victoria where Premier Daniel Andrews said the state was well-placed to end its five-day coronavirus lockdown at midnight Wednesday.

This follows an outbreak at the Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn.

On the ASX, market giant BHP closed higher by 2.73 per cent to $47.00 after it declared an interim dividend of $US1.01 per share, up from 65 US cents in the previous corresponding period.

Ms Amir said the dividend was a cracker.

"You're not getting that from banks," she said.

First-half profit fell by 20 per cent after the resources group cut the value of its NSW coal assets, as it continues to pivot toward a carbon-neutral future.

Three high-ranking officials at Fortescue Metals resigned over an undisclosed matter amid a review of the Iron Bridge magnetite iron ore project, which has had huge costs.

Chief operating officer Greg Lilleyman, director projects Don Hyma and director Iron Bridge Manie McDonald all resigned.

Shares were higher prior to the news at about 1500 AEDT but closed lower by 2.99 per cent to $23.70.

Elsewhere, Rio Tinto gained 2.97 per cent to $123.05.

National Australia Bank enjoyed a 47 per cent increase in cash earnings during its first quarter trading, helped by improving economic and health outcomes in Australia and New Zealand.

However in a first quarter trading update, CEO Ross McEwan said there were still uncertainties such as the impact of ongoing health alerts and measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Shares were better by 1.07 per cent to $25.56. Among other banks, ANZ rose 0.99 per cent to $25.47, the Commonwealth declined 0.46 per cent to $85.91 and Westpac gained 0.49 per cent to $22.51.

Home furnishings group Adairs had a bumper first half and reported a 233 per cent-plus jump in net profit to $43.9 million.

Shares were lower by 3.81 per cent to $4.04.

On Wednesday, Rio Tinto will give full-year earnings.

Coles will be among those giving first-half earnings.

The Aussie dollar was buying 77.89 US cents at 1724 AEDT, higher from 77.82 US cents at Monday's close.


* The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed higher by 48.4 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 6917.3 on Tuesday.

* The All Ordinaries closed better by 39.6 points, or 0.55 per cent, at 7189.3.

* At 1724 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was lower by six points, or 0.09 per cent, at 6852 points.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 77.89 US cents, from 77.82 cents on Monday

* 82.20 Japanese yen, from 81.82 yen

* 64.16 Euro cents, from 64.14 cents

* 55.90 British pence, from 56.03 pence

* 107.44 NZ cents, from 107.50 cents.