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Victorian lockdown dampens mood on ASX

·4-min read

Victoria's coronavirus lockdown has sapped confidence on the share market as some companies brace for a considerable hit to sales.

The ASX was higher before news of seven days of tight restrictions caused investors to force the indices below their opening level after 1100 AEST.

While the market later recovered and closed little changed, Investsmart market strategist Evan Lucas said he was watching bellwether stocks.

Toll road operator Transurban, which manages Melbourne's Tullamarine Freeway and West Gate Tunnel, closed lower for a second consecutive day and lost 1.01 per cent to $13.66.

"Transurban has a significant chunk of earnings from the Tullamarine Freeway and freeway use will be significantly impacted by the lockdown," Mr Lucas said.

Sydney Airport, which has a steady stream of Victorian visitors, closed lower for a second consecutive day. Shares fell 0.35 per cent to $5.76.

Mr Lucas said the economic impact of the lockdown would show in more stocks.

"You want to see what happens to consumer confidence. What happens to retail sales in Victoria," he said.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up by 2.4 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 7094.9 on Thursday.

The All Ordinaries closed higher by 12.4 points, or 0.17 per cent, to 7344.

Information technology shares were best and higher by almost two per cent.

The worst performers were utilities, which lost 1.18 per cent.

Earlier Wall Street indices had modest gains, with recent comments from Federal Reserve officials helping to quell concerns about runaway inflation.

US gross domestic product (GDP) figures due for release could prove pivotal to trading activity.

The US economy is recovering strongly from the pandemic, as seen by recent inflation figures which were higher than expected.

US Federal Reserve officials have said any tapering of the massive government stimulus is not on the agenda.

Yet Mr Lucas said higher than expected GDP figures could make it hard for Fed officials to maintain that rhetoric.

"Fed members are trying to clearly state that tapering (economic stimulus) is not on the horizon," he said.

"But if we keep getting strong data like we did with inflation, investors are going to start wondering when do we wind it back."

On the ASX, fruit and vegetable grower Costa Group dived 24.1 per cent to $3.37 after company leaders outlined price pressures and a higher Aussie dollar affecting overseas earnings. They spoke at the annual general meeting.

Healthcare shares were down 0.42 per cent after Fisher and Paykel Healthcare was unable to forecast earnings due to the unpredictability of the pandemic.

Shares in the company fell 5.99 per cent to $27.94.

The company's full-year net profit after tax was up 82 per cent from hospitals buying more supplies to combat the virus.

A final dividend of 22 cents per share was 42 per cent better than the previous equivalent payout.

Corporate regulator ASIC is taking wealth manager AMP to court for selling life insurance to dead people - one of the controversies from the banking royal commission.

AMP charged life insurance premiums and advice fees to thousands of customers between 2011 and 2019 despite being told they were dead.

ASIC is taking Federal Court action over those charged from May 2015 to August 2019.

AMP shares were up 8.45 per cent to $1.15.

In banking, ANZ was best of the big four and rose 0.14 per cent to $28.54. The others in the group fell by less than one per cent.

In mining, Fortescue was the standout and rose 4.95 per cent to $22.27, while BHP and Rio Tinto gained less than one per cent.

The Australian dollar was buying 77.52 US cents at 1725 AEST, lower from 77.78 US cents at Wednesday's close.

ON THE ASX

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up by 2.4 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 7094.9 on Thursday.

* The All Ordinaries closed higher by 12.4 points, or 0.17 per cent, to 7344.

* At 1725 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was down three points, or 0.04 per cent, to 7087.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 77.52 US cents, from 77.78 cents on Wednesday

* 84.58 Japanese yen, from 84.64 yen

* 63.52 Euro cents, from 63.53 cents

* 54.87 British pence, from 55.00 pence

* 106.17 NZ cents, from 106.43 cents.

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