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ASX little changed despite virus drag

Iron ore miners have helped the ASX close little changed following investors’ coronavirus concerns and modest reaction to an economic stimulus deal in the US.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed lower by 5.6 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 6669.9 on Monday.

The All Ordinaries lost 4.1 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 6920.0.

The indices were down for much of the session after Australian states and territories over the weekend restricted people from much or all of NSW entering due to the Sydney coronavirus outbreak.

Several European countries placed restrictions on travel to and from the United Kingdom due to a new strain of the coronavirus spreading there.

There was little ASX investor response to US congressional leaders agreeing on a $US900 billion ($1.2 trillion) economic package.

The news broke early in the session.

Investors have craved financial stimulus for the coronavirus-riddled US economy for months.

Deep Data Analytics chief executive Mathan Somasundaram believed the deal had already been factored in share price calculations.

“The market was already assuming they would do it,” he said of US politicians.

The $1.2 trillion deal was a low level of funding compared to what might have been agreed, Mr Somasundaram said.

“So the question is what happens next. Will there be a second stimulus,” he said.

He noted the spot gold price rose $US20 per ounce.

“The more money printing they do, they will devalue the US dollar,” Mr Somasundaram said of the US government.

“And that’s positive for the gold price.”

While gold miners closed higher, the big improvers during the session were their iron ore peers.

Iron ore traded at more than $US161 per tonne, and Fortescue had a record price of $24.08.

Shares closed higher by 4.93 per cent to $24.04.

BHP gained 1.18 per cent to $43.66 and Rio Tinto closed higher by 0.91 per cent to $118.60.

Most sectors closed lower. Utilities was worst, down 2.21 per cent. Energy shed 1.13 per cent.

Fashion retailer City Chic was one of the best performers, up 11.04 per cent to $3.52, after it said it would buy UK womens clothing chain Evans for $41 million.

Evans, a plus-size retailer, has more than 100 stores across the UK as well as an online business.

Health insurers were doing better after the federal government approved a rise in premiums.

The 2.74 per cent annual increase is due to take effect from April 1.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says it is the lowest annual average premium increase in 20 years.

NIB rose 3.2 per cent to $5.80, while Medibank Private rose 3.75 per cent to $3.04.

Power and gas provider AGL has lowered earnings guidance due to a fire which will keep its Liddell power station in NSW out of operation until March.

AGL said underlying profit for the financial year was expected to be between $500 million $580 million, down from a previous range of $560 million to $660 million.

Shares were lower by 5.14 per cent to $12.54.

Among the big banks, ANZ rose 0.3 per cent to $23.31, the Commonwealth dipped 0.19 per cent to $83.00, NAB shed 0.3 per cent to $23.30 and Westpac lost 0.1 per cent to $19.88.

On Tuesday, preliminary November retail figures should be helped by Victorians’ having regained freedom from coronavirus restrictions in the same month.

The Aussie dollar was buying 75.60 US cents at 1728 AEDT, lower from 75.89 US cents at Friday’s close.

ON THE ASX

* The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed lower by 5.6 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 6669.9 on Monday.

* The All Ordinaries lost 4.1 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 6920.0.

* At 1728 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was higher by 18 points, or 0.27 per cent, to 6606.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 75.60 US cents, from 75.89 cents on Friday

* 78.24 Japanese yen, from 78.48 yen

* 62.07 Euro cents, from 61.98 cents

* 56.67 British pence, from 56.07 pence

* 106.68 NZ cents, from 106.44 cents.

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