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ASX ends 0.66pct better on vaccine hope

Steven Deare
·4-min read

Australia's share market has surged early on news of a promising coronavirus vaccine, but the gains eased as experts urged caution about a possible breakthrough.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed up 41.7 points, or 0.66 per cent, to 6340.5 on Tuesday after Pfizer said its coronavirus vaccine was 90 per cent effective.

The ASX200 reached a session high of 6438.2 in the first 20 minutes of trade.

The index closed at an eight-month high for a second consecutive session.

The All Ordinaries closed higher by 28.3 points, or 0.43 per cent, to 6544.0.

There was a whopping gain of 8.54 per cent for the energy sector, as traders hoped a coronavirus vaccine would later help people to travel more.

However health and consumer stocks slipped as the session wore on and finished lower.

Investsmart market strategist Evan Lucas said it was a day of two halves.

He noted excitement over the Pfizer results came late on US markets, which closed higher, and was followed by the ASX jump.

Then came cautious responses from medical experts.

Lawrence Young, a professor of molecular oncology at Britain's University of Warwick, noted Pfizer's data showed the vaccine keeps people from getting sick but not necessarily from becoming infected.

Infected people could still transmit the virus, he said.

Mr Lucas believed the warnings led to more selling of health and consumer stocks.

Meanwhile, unemployed Australians will have JobSeeker coronavirus payments extended.

The existing $250 fortnightly supplement is due to expire on December 31, and will then be reduced to $150 per fortnight and extended until March 28.

The South Australian government will spend big to revive its economy from the pandemic.

With $4 billion allocated to protect businesses and jobs and SA hit by a $1.3 billion cut to GST returns, the 2020/21 budget deficit is forecast to rise to $2.6 billion.

Meanwhile the Northern Territory's budget revealed a $2.45 billion deficit, and a forecast that it will take almost a decade to balance the books.

On the ASX, energy providers were just some of the big winners after world oil prices climbed about eight per cent on the vaccine news.

Oil Search gained 16.55 per cent to $3.31, Beach was up 14.8 per cent to $1.43 and Santos rose 12.18 per cent to $5.62.

Travel stocks also soared.

Corporate Travel Management rose 15.83 per cent to $19.83, Qantas gained 8.33 per cent to $5.07 and Webjet was up 13.55 per cent to $4.86.

Property group Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield had the biggest gains of large capitalisation companies after it said the vaccine could have a significant impact on retail property.

Its also considering selling its US assets.

Shares rose 43.55 per cent to $4.12.

James Hardie fell after it reported half-year net profit down 49 per cent to $US96.2 million ($132.2 million), but maintained full-year earnings guidance.

The company will not pay an interim dividend but expects to pay a final dividend.

Shares were lower by 5.58 per cent to $36.21.

In banking, ANZ rose 5.05 per cent to $20.19, the Commonwealth gained 2.97 per cent to $72.40, NAB climbed 7.59 per cent to $21.26 and Westpac was up 5.18 per cent to $18.68.

The materials sector was lower. BHP gained 0.42 per cent to $36.03, but Rio Tinto lost 0.68 per cent to $95.44 and Fortescue shed 0.06 per cent to $17.60.

The technology sector had heavy losses and was down 6.16 per cent.

On Wednesday, Fortescue Metals will have its annual general meeting.

The Aussie dollar was buying 72.83 US cents at 1715 AEDT, down from 72.94 US cents at Monday's close.

ON THE ASX

* The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed up 41.7 points, or 0.66 per cent, to 6340.5 on Tuesday.

* The All Ordinaries closed higher by 28.3 points, or 0.43 per cent, to 6544.0.

* At 1715 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was lower by one point, or 0.02 per cent, to 6340.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 72.83 US cents, from 72.91 US cents on Monday

* 76.45 Japanese yen, from 75.47 yen

* 61.56 Euro cents, from 61.33 cents

* 55.24 British pence, from 55.34 pence

* 106.59 NZ cents, from 107.12 cents.