ASX defies week of lockdowns, ends steady

·3-min read

Investors are looking to a key Reserve Bank meeting and US earnings reports next week after shares defied a lockdown-plagued week across Australia.

While the RBA is not expected to adjust the cash rate from a record low 0.1 per cent, the central bank will make a decision on its three-year bond target and quantitative easing program on Tuesday.

The RBA has been buying the April 2024 bond to keep its yield, or interest rate, at 0.1 per cent.

A switch to buying the November 2024 bond could signal officials expect lower rates for longer.

However most analysts do not expect them to do so, given the surging Australian economy.

Low rates have continued to help the share market stay close to record highs.

The ASX closed little changed for the week despite about half Australia's population being in coronavirus lockdown.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Friday closed up by 43 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 7308.6.

The All Ordinaries closed higher by 45.6 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 7587.1.

Deep Data Analytics chief executive Mathan Somasundaram was interested in the US earnings reports due next week.

He expected plenty of good "top line" results given the US economy's resurgence from the pandemic.

Yet Mr Somasundaram was wary of what the rising cost of commodities such as oil could mean in future.

"The biggest worry will be `are costs rising too fast'," he said.

Inflation has been a chief concern for investors in the global economy's recovery from COVID-19.

Limited migration during the pandemic has caused worker shortages for many countries.

This could result in higher wages and greater costs for companies.

Mr Somasundaram said the findings from US earnings season could indicate what is in store for Australia's equivalent in August.

On the Aussie market, Westpac said potential fraud had been found in equipment leases for its customers.

The bank is taking Forum Finance to court after the latter arranged the leases.

Westpac said the fraud could cost about $200 million and police and regulators were investigating.

Shares in the bank closed lower by 0.04 per cent to $25.64.

Other banks had a much better day. Bendigo gained 2.52 per cent to $10.56. ANZ was best of the big four and higher by 1.03 per cent to $28.32.

Energy shares were the best category and rose 1.76 per cent after OPEC talks to increase oil supply broke down.

Woodside closed higher by 3.01 per cent to $22.95.

There were also gains of more than one per cent for shares in consumer discretionaries and industrials.

Travel stocks regained some favour after being heavily sold at the start of the week.

Webjet rose 4.92 per cent to $5.12. Flight Centre gained 4.53 per cent to $15.46.

A group of companies including a gym operator are taking QBE Insurance to court for being denied cover during the pandemic.

The group claim their losses should be covered by business interruption circumstances.

QBE says it will defend the action.

Shares closed down by 0.56 per cent to $10.66.

Big miners were mixed. BHP rose 0.68 per cent to $48.55. Fortescue was little changed. Rio Tinto shed 0.22 per cent to $125.71.

The Australian dollar was buying 74.57 US cents at 1729 AEST, lower from 74.82 US cents at Thursday's close.

ON THE ASX

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up by 43 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 7308.6 on Friday.

* The All Ordinaries closed higher by 45.6 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 7587.1.

* At 1729 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was higher by nine points, or 0.12 per cent, to 7239.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 74.57 US cents, from 74.82 cents on Thursday

* 83.24 Japanese yen, from 83.43 yen

* 63.06 Euro cents, from 63.27 cents

* 54.21 British pence, from 54.23 pence

* 107.15 NZ cents, from 107.18 cents.

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