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ASX ends 0.66pc up, energy and health top

·4-min read

Investors in Australia's share market have made gains early in a week in which most of the focus will likely be on US financial leaders appearing before the Senate.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed up by 44.3 points, or 0.66 per cent, to 6752.5 on Monday.

The All Ordinaries closed higher by 35.4 points, or 0.51 per cent, at 6995.

The gains were the biggest in more than a week, and ended three consecutive sessions of losses.

The sectors contributing most were energy, utilities and health. All rose by more than two per cent.

Market heavyweight CSL rose 2.45 per cent to $260.16.

CCZ Statton Equities' John Zemek said the biotech giant's share price had been lower recently due to concerns about the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, which CSL is manufacturing.

Some European countries last week raised concerns about blood clots in a small number of vaccinated people, but the EU drug watchdog says it is convinced benefits outweigh risks.

"CSL was looking shaky last week, but we seem to have got over that," Mr Zemek said.

Investors were able to shake off a mostly lower lead from US markets.

Many will be looking to events mid-week in the US, when Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testify before the Senate.

Investors' worries about inflation from a rapid US economic recovery have caused bond yields to climb.

Mr Powell's insistence the Fed will not raise rates for years has only stopped the climb in borrowing costs briefly after his talks.

Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand are working towards quarantine-free travel between the two nations.

While some Australian states have allowed quarantine-free flights of Kiwi visitors, New Zealand has been slow to reciprocate.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will on April 6 reveal her start date for the trans-Tasman arrangement.

On the ASX, an $8 billion offer for gaming giant Crown Resorts from a US investment fund could be good news for shareholders of the troubled group.

US private equity group Blackstone made an unsolicited, non-binding offer of $11.85 cash per share.

ThinkMarkets analyst Carl Capolingua said the Blackstone bid looked cheap.

He cited Las Vegas gambling giant Wynn Resorts' offer in 2019 of $10 billion.

Crown shares were higher by 21.4 per cent to $11.97.

Mr Zemek said floods in NSW and Queensland could have been affecting a number of stocks' fortunes.

The Insurance Council of Australia declared a catastrophe for large parts of NSW following widespread storms and flooding over the past few days.

Insurers IAG, QBE and Suncorp all lost more than two per cent.

"Insurers are struggling because claims are going to be so big and they may not be fully reinsured," Mr Zemek said.

"But in the next 12 months they will be able to put up premiums based on this experience."

Mr Zemek also noted a strong performance from emergency building works provider, Johns Lyng Group.

Shares rose 6.69 per cent to $3.83.

ANZ and the Commonwealth said they settled a class action in the US from 2016.

The Southern District of New York took action against banks, including the Australian ones, over the bank bill swap rate and the trading of related products.

The settlements were confidential, the banks said.

They also said the financial impacts were not material.

Each of the big four banks rose by less than one per cent.

In mining, BHP, Fortescue and Rio Tinto were all down. Fortescue was worst, down 4.25 per cent to $19.16.

On Tuesday, Airtasker will list. The labour hire organiser is keen to fund overseas expansion.

Rip Curl owner and retailer Kathmandu will give first-half earnings.

The Australian dollar was buying 77.26 US cents at 1729 AEDT, lower from 77.44 US cents at Friday's close.

ON THE ASX

* The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed up by 44.3 points, or 0.66 per cent, to 6752.5 on Monday.

* The All Ordinaries closed higher by 35.4 points, or 0.51 per cent, at 6995.

* At 1729 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was down by five points, or 0.07 per cent, and trading at 6720 points.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 77.26 US cents, from 77.44 cents on Friday

* 84.03 Japanese yen, from 84.24 yen

* 64.98 Euro cents, from 64.98 cents

* 55.76 British pence, from 55.66 pence

* 107.93 NZ cents, from 108.02 cents.