Aust shares start the year with a bang

·3-min read

The Australian share market has climbed to its highest level in more than four months as investors looked past surging local coronavirus cases to track gains on the US bourses.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 145.2 points, or 1.95 per cent, at 7589.8 points in its first trading session of the year on Tuesday.

The All Ordinaries index climbed 147.6 points, or 1.9 per cent, to 7926.8 points.

Sentiment was largely determined by a strong session on Wall Street overnight that saw all three major US indices at record highs after solid gains for the likes of Apple, Tesla and Amazon.

It helped fuel a broad-based rally in the local bourse, with every single sectoral index closing higher.

"The ASX has bolted out of the gates to begin the new year, with a global push into value stocks," said IG market analyst Kyle Rodda.

"Ostensibly - and this might be a stretch given activity is still relatively low - the markets appear more confident about the economic outlook, and the risks posed to it by Omicron."

Investors brushed aside concerns about rising hospitalisations amid a surge in local Omicron cases across major states.

NSW reported 23,131 new cases, setting a record for COVID-19 hospitalisations. Victoria posted 14,020 new positive infections, while Queensland had 5,699 cases and South Australia another 3,246 infections.

Energy, mining and healthcare were the best performing sectors in the local market, but the foundation was laid by the heavyweight financial sector.

Each of the Big Four banks settled at least 1.5 per cent higher. Macquarie Group hit a 52-week high before closing 2.9 per cent higher at $211.34, while other major sector stocks such as QBE, IAG and Challenger ended 4-5 per cent higher.

Energy stocks were a key beneficiary of crude oil prices climbing further. Woodside and Santos ran up 3.4 per cent and 4.8 per cent respectively, while Whitehaven Coal jumped nearly 6 per cent on fears of global supply disruption after Indonesia imposed a ban on coal exports.

Miners also advanced, with iron ore exporters BHP and Fortescue Metals climbing 2.1 per cent and 3.3 per cent respectively.

Base metals producers such as IGO, South32 and Alumina rose 1.5-3.5 per cent, while Tesla's gains put a rocket under shares of battery minerals producers. Pilbara Minerals surged 10 per cent to a record $3.52, while Lynas climbed 8.5 per cent to $11.03.

Gains among healthcare majors were led by protective clothing maker Ansell and hearing implant maker Cochlear, which rose 4.3 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively. Biotech giant CSL closed 1.8 per cent higher.

Among the prominent stocks bucking the trend, supermarket giant Coles was down 0.2 per cent at $17.90, while smaller rival Metcash slipped 0.7 per cent to $4.47. Bega Cheese lost 1.2 per cent to $5.60.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar slipped to a near two-week low on expectations that rising virus cases might turn the central bank more dovish. It recovered slightly and was buying 72.15 US cents by 1700 AEDT, compared to 72.56 US cents at Friday's close.

ON THE ASX

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 145.2 points, or 1.95 per cent, at 7589.8 points on Tuesday.

* The All Ordinaries index climbed 147.6 points, or 1.9 per cent, to 7926.8 points.

* At 1700 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was unchanged at 7532 points.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 72.56 US cents, from 72.56 cents on Friday

* 83.46 Japanese yen, from 83.48 yen

* 63.80 Euro cents, from 64.09 cents

* 53.55 British pence, from 53.75 pence

* 106.14 NZ cents, from 106.27 cents.

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