(Australian Associated Press)
Thriving market giants have helped Australian shares to their highest level since the coronavirus crash, within 100 points of records.
CSL and the Commonwealth Bank each gained more than two per cent and drove the indices higher early.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed higher by 27.9 points, or 0.39 per cent, to 7095.8.
The index’s record close is 7162.5, set in February last year and days before investors sold stocks due to fear of the virus.
The All Ordinaries on Wednesday was up by 20.7 points, or 0.28 per cent, to 7344.2 points.
Burman Invest chief investment officer Julia Lee said gains were weighted towards big, blue-chip stocks.
“It’s a case of the big end of town doing the heavy lifting,” she said.
CSL rose 2.38 per cent to $277.66 after Spanish rival Grifols reported a drop in first-quarter revenue.
Like CSL, Grifols produces blood plasma products and collected less blood from patients due to the coronavirus.
The Commonwealth Bank gained 2.51 per cent to $92.72 but Ms Lee saw no immediate catalyst.
The bank is due to give a third-quarter update next week.
The Commonwealth fared much better with investors than ANZ Bank, which gave its first-half earnings.
ANZ reported cash profit for the six months to March 31 more than doubled from a year ago to $2.99 billion.
Improving economic conditions helped ANZ’s home loans business but Ms Lee said while the results were good, they did not meet investors’ expectations.
Shares fell 3.23 per cent to $27.90.
NAB gives its first-half earnings on Thursday and rose 0.44 per cent to $37.37.
Westpac was in the news, sued for alleged insider trading.
ASIC claimed the bank unfairly profited from a $12 billion interest rate swap deal with an AustralianSuper consortium.
Shares dropped 0.12 per cent to $25.96.
Materials shares performed well and rose by 0.78 per cent.
BHP and Rio Tinto had gains of more than one per cent after enjoying a rise of more than two per cent on Tuesday.
BHP gained 1.1 per cent to $48.76. Rio Tinto rose 1.15 per cent to $124.54.
Ms Lee said commodities were in favour due to fears of inflation.
Those fears were heightened in the US after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen mentioned the potential need for interest rate hikes.
The comments appeared to exacerbate a tech sell-off on US markets, which closed mostly lower.
Investors worry higher rates will weigh on valuations of growth companies, and that fear was evident on the ASX.
Shares in information technology fared worst and lost 1.11 per cent.
Afterpay shed 3.46 per cent to $106.96.
Elsewhere, insurer QBE rose 4.08 per cent to $10.45 after it said dividend payments would resume this year.
Chair Michael Wilkins told the insurer’s annual general meeting the company would return to profitability in 2021 as the economy recovers from the coronavirus.
The Australian dollar was buying 77.09 US cents at 1727 AEST, lower from 77.43 US cents at Tuesday’s close.
ON THE ASX
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed higher by 27.9 points, or 0.39 per cent, to 7095.8 on Wednesday.
* The All Ordinaries was up by 20.7 points, or 0.28 per cent, to 7344.2 points.
* At 1709 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was higher by six points, or 0.08 per cent, to 7073.
One Australian dollar buys:
* 77.09 US cents, from 77.43 cents on Tuesday
* 84.35 Japanese yen, from 84.61 yen
* 64.30 Euro cents, from 64.30 cents
* 55.49 British pence, from 55.77 pence
* 107.73 NZ cents, from 107.97 cents.