Australia markets closed

Australian stocks gain on stimulus hopes

Derek Rose

The Australian stock exchange has closed higher on optimism that global stimulus measures will buffer economies from the impact of the coronavirus.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 finished Thursday up 70.3 points, 1.11 per cent, at 6,395.7, while the broader All Ordinaries index closed up 73.9 points, or 1.15 per cent, to 6,472.4.

The ASX did not perform as well as Wall Street, where the Dow Jones and S&P500 gained more than four per cent following Joe Biden's surprise Super Tuesday comeback over Democratic rival Bernie Sanders.

"You'd think our market was going to get out of correction territory, but it didn't," said Bell Direct market analyst Jessica Amir.

The ASX200 is still down 11.1 per cent from an record high set two weeks ago, following eight days of losses mixed with just two days of gains.

Every sector rose on Thursday, with consumer staples, health care, telecommunications and property trusts up by more than two per cent.

NAB senior economist David de Garis said the markets were driven by hope governments will follow the lead of central banks and respond to the coronavirus emergency with stimulus packages to protect their economies.

Health care rose the most, by 2.7 per cent, as CSL rose 3.5 per cent to $316.90 and ResMed gained 4.3 per cent to $26.20.

Telco stocks TPG and Vodafone Australia owner Hutchison both surged after the competition watchdog said it would not appeal the Federal Court's decision allowing their merger.

Hutchison rose more than 17 per cent to 17 cents while TPG rallied 9.6 per cent to $8.25, for the best rise of any ASX200 component.

Myer closed down 4.4 per cent to 33 cents after reporting a 37 per cent drop in interim profit.

As shoppers spooked by the coronavirus stockpiled staples like toilet paper, Woolworths gained 1.9 per cent to $37.73 while Coles rose 3.5 per cent to $15.86.

With rain from former Tropical Cyclone Esther hitting much of eastern Australia, agricultural stocks battered by months of drought were among the top performers.

Graincorp gained 5.8 per cent to $8.20, Elders rose 8.5 per cent to $8.59, Bega Cheese gained 2.2 per cent to $4.61 and Select Harvests rose 2.4 per cent to $6.49.

Three of the four big banks rebounded after they each suffered losses of over three per cent on Wednesday, sending their stock to multiyear lows.

NAB gained 0.2 per cent to $23.29, while ANZ and Westpac both rose 0.1 per cent, to $23.24 and $22.25, respectively.

Commonwealth Bank, which wasn't as hard hit by Wednesday's bank selloff, dropped 0.5 per cent to $76.75.

Macquarie Group gained 3.5 per cent to $137.53.

In the mining sector, BHP and Rio Tinto were both down as they traded ex-dividend.

BHP dropped 0.7 per cent to $33.42, while Rio lost 1.7 per cent to $88.45.

Iron ore giant Fortescue Metals gained 5.2 per cent to $10.05, while goldminers were mixed, with Newcrest up 1.6 per cent and Northern Star down 0.3 per cent.

The Australian dollar was buying 66.28 US cents, up from 65.97 US cents as the market closed on Wednesday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Thursday up 70.3 points, or 1.11 per cent, at 6,395.7 points

* The All Ordinaries closed up 73.9 points, or 1.15 per cent, at 6,472.4 points

* The SPI200 futures index closed up 84 points, or 1.33 per cent, at 6,407 points

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 66.28 US cents, from 65.99 US cents on Wednesday

* 71.13 Japanese yen, from 70.90 yen

* 59.52 euro cents, from 59.17 cents

* 51.46 British pence, from 51.52 pence

* 105.07 NZ cents, from 105.13 cents