Aust stocks gain after softer jobs report

The local share market has climbed to a fresh eight-month high after softer-than-expected jobs data showed the domestic economy slowing, raising expectations for less aggressive rate hikes from the Reserve Bank.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed on Thursday up 41.9 points, or 0.57 per cent, to 7,435.3, its best level since April 22.

The All Ordinaries gained 38.9 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 7,648.4.

The ASX200 has gained in 10 of the 12 sessions since a sell-off on January 3, with slight losses in the other two. It's gained 489 points, or 7.0 per cent, in that span.

"The market pivot has emerged as a key theme to start the year," State Street Global Advisors SPDR ETF equity strategist Julia Lee told AAP.

"This is as interest rate expectations ease and the impact of central bank decisions becomes less important."

The ASX was slightly lower in morning trading on Thursday but climbed after the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that employment fell by 14,600 in December, defying expectations of an 25,000 increase.

Unemployment came in at a still very low 3.5 per cent, but not quite as good as the 3.4 per cent economists were expecting, in perhaps an early sign the labour market is cooling.

The Australian dollar fell and three-year bond yields dropped to their lowest level in six months as the market priced-in better odds that the Reserve Bank would keep interest rates on hold at its February 7 meeting, rather than raise them another 25 basis points.

"The weaker job numbers are seen as a positive for lower or stabilising interest rates and make it less likely that the RBA will have to hike aggressively in the future," Ms Lee said.

The 11 official ASX sectors were mixed on Thursday, with mining the biggest gainer with a one per cent rise.

Rio Tinto added 3.3 per cent to a 10-month high of $125.96, Fortescue gained 1.7 per cent to $22.58, and BHP finished up 1.2 per cent to $49.68 after announcing it was on track to meet production guidance for 2022/23.

Telstra gained 1.5 per cent to $4.15, equalling its best level in a year.

In the financial sector, Suncorp gained 3.7 per cent on a broker upgrade to reach a year-and-a-half high of $12.36.

The big banks were all higher, although more modestly. CBA was up 1.0 per cent to $108.74, ANZ climbed 0.4 per cent to $24.88, Westpac added 0.6 per cent to $23.95 and NAB edged 0.1 per cent higher at $31.71. Also, Macquarie rose 1.3 per cent to $181.98.

Netwealth dropped 9.2 per cent to $12.65 after announcing unusually high outflows from high net-worth investors in the December quarter.

Fund managers Pinnacle, Insignia Financial, GQG Partners, Australian Ethical and Platinum Asset Management were all down as well, by between 2.2 and 3.2 per cent.

In the energy sector, Santos dropped 1.6 per cent to $7.24 after the oil and gas producer announced it had made $US1.9 billion ($A2.8b) in revenue in the fourth quarter, slightly less than analysts expected.

But Viva Energy rose 4.7 per cent to a three-month high of $2.87 after the Shell petrol station licensee announced fuel sales were up 12.9 per cent in the December quarter, compared to a year ago.

Embattled software company Nuix soared 14.6 per cent to a seven-month high of 94c after announcing it expects to report $19 million to $21 million in half-year earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA).

In small caps, Cann Group dropped 2.4 per cent to a five-year low of 19c after the cannabis company announced its low-dose CBD capsules appeared to have performed no better than placebo in treating sleep disturbances, in a 257-patient phase 3 clinical trial.

The Australian dollar was buying 69.06 US cents, from 69.99 US cents at Wednesday's ASX close. It had traded as high as 70.64 US cents on Wednesday, its highest level since August.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed Thursday up 41.9 points, or 0.57 per cent, to 7435.3.

* The broader All Ordinaries gained 38.9 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 7548.4.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 69.06 US cents, from 69.99 US cents at Wednesday's ASX close

* 88.28 Japanese yen, from 91.52 Japanese yen

* 63.95 Euro cents, from 64.90 Euro cents

* 55.95 British pence, from 56.95 pence

* 107.58 NZ cents, from 108.44 NZ cents.