Tech sector rallies, Travel stocks climb on NZ news: ASX closes 1.1% higher

Market Reports

by Lauren Evans

The Australian sharemarket swam in positive territory throughout the day, buoyed by gains in the technology sector. Wednesday's session saw all sectors close higher, with energy shedding the least.

Afterpay owner Block (ASX:SQ2) led the tech sector higher, adding 8.5 per cent to $144.93. Magellan Financial (ASX:MFG) climbed 3.9 per cent to $14.40 after announcing an on-market share buyback of up to 10 million shares.

Major banks added to today’s gains, led by Macquarie (ASX:MQG), up 1.8 per cent to $189.44 and ANZ Bank (ASX:ANZ), up 1.8 per cent to $27.17. Commonwealth (ASX:CBA) rose 0.9 per cent to $104.76, Westpac (ASX:WBC) added 0.9 per cent to $23.69 and National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) closed 0.4 per cent higher at $30.75. As a side note, Westpac (ASX:WBC) appointed Yianna Papanikolaou to the newly created position of chief transformation officer.

Meanwhile, travel stocks jumped on the news that New Zealand will open its border to Australian tourists earlier than expected. Corporate Travel Management (ASX:CTD) rose 5.4 per cent, Flight Centre (ASX:FLT) lifted 1.3 per cent and Qantas (ASX:QAN) closed 2.3 per cent higher.

Gold stocks finished higher, led by Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN), up 1.8 per cent to $4.47. Northern Star (ASX:NST) rose 0.5 per cent to $10.52 and Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) closed 0.4 per cent higher at $25.92.

Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) led iron ore players, up 1.5 per cent to $17.40, with Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) up 0.2 per cent to $106.91. BHP Group (ASX:BHP) fell 0.4 per cent to $45.18.

Energy stocks finished mixed, with Santos (ASX:STO) up 1.2 per cent to $7.33 and Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) up 0.7 per cent to $1.54. Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) closed 0.2 per cent lower at $30.96.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 1.1 per cent or 78 points higher at 7,175.

Company news

Suncorp’s (ASX:SUN) estimated natural hazard costs for the full year increased to around $1.1 billion from $1.07 billion, following the flood recovery in Queensland and NSW. The company’s net retained loss from these events remains unchanged at $75 million. As of March 14, Suncorp had received more than 34,000 claims, with over 80 per cent of them related to home damage. Shares closed 0.8 per cent higher at $11.12.

Centuria Capital (ASX:CNI) announced a healthcare partnership through a joint venture sponsored by Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing. It will be named the Centuria Prime Partnership, seeded with three healthcare real estate assets collectively worth $210 million and will comprise a 90 per cent investment from Morgan Stanley and 10 per cent from Centuria. Shares closed 1.7 per cent lower at $2.91.

Meanwhile, total passenger volumes at Auckland Airport (ASX:AIA) were 1.2 per cent lower in January compared to the prior year period, and were down 73 per cent compared to pre-Covid numbers in January 2019. In February, total passenger volumes decreased by 19.9 per cent compared to the prior year period, and were down 78.8 per cent compared to pre-Covid numbers in February 2019. Shares closed 0.3 per cent higher at $6.86.

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a fall of 21 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a fall of 3 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a rise of 15 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 79 points when the market next opens.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Information Technology, up 3.3 per cent. The sector with the fewest gains was Energy, up 0.2 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Life360 (ASX:360), closing 7.4 per cent higher at $5.22. It was followed by shares in Block (ASX:SQ2) and Corporate Travel Management (ASX:CTD).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Super Retail Group (ASX:SUL), closing 3.2 per cent lower at $10.17. It was followed by shares in Nanosonics (ASX:NAN) and Seven Group Holdings (ASX:SVW).

Asian markets

Japan's Nikkei has gained 1.4 per cent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng has gained 2.5 per cent.
China's Shanghai Composite has gained 0.04 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1917.54 an ounce.
Iron ore is 6.5 per cent lower at US$135.55 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 0.8 per cent.
Light crude is trading $0.73 higher at US$95.52 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 72.05 US cents. 

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