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Seven weeks of ASX gains despite cluster

Australia’s share market had its seventh consecutive week of gains helped by optimism overseas and a recovering local economy but investors will watch a Sydney coronavirus outbreak after it marred Friday trade.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed lower by 81.2 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 6675.5 on Friday, after the outbreak overshadowed record results on US markets from economic stimulus hopes.

The index has fallen eight points below where it was on January 1.

The All Ordinaries closed down 76.0 points, or 1.09 per cent, to 6924.1.

The ASX200 this week gained 0.5 per cent following better than expected jobs figures and a positive budget update.

China’s demand for iron ore and rising prices have helped miners.

Wall Street was a mostly positive influence as US politicians suggested they are close to agreeing on financial stimulus for an economy ravaged by the virus.

GSFM investment strategy consultant Stephen Miller was buoyed by Australia’s jobless rate improving to 6.8 per cent this week.

“All indications are we’re enduring the pandemic much better than we thought,” he said.

“There has obviously been a bit of a hiccup on the ASX today and I suspect that is related to the COVID outbreak.

“People are just a bit worried about harsh and enduring border closures.”

Most states and territories declared quarantine requirements for anyone arriving who has been in Sydney’s northern beaches recently. Western Australia requires anyone from NSW to do so.

NSW authorities on Friday said 28 people were infected. The first cases were revealed on Wednesday.

Mr Miller said how the outbreak unfolded would be of interest next week but he was most focused on US economic stimulus.

“People in the US are increasingly of the view they’ll get fiscal support to backup the monetary support,” he said.

“That will be the critical thing in the week ahead.”

US markets closed at record levels, such is the belief politicians are close to a deal.

On the ASX, most sectors closed lower.

Biotech Mesoblast plunged 36.07 per cent to $2.41 after US health authorities decided the company’s drug for COVID-19 patients did not save as many lives as hoped.

The health authorities analysed results of 180 patients.

Insurer QBE said it’s likely to report a full-year loss of $1.5 billion due to writedowns of goodwill in North America, and costs from the pandemic.

The results are due on February 19.

Shares closed lower by 12.46 per cent to $8.71.

Westpac will exit early from a deal allowing IOOF advisers and clients to use its wealth management platform, BT Wrap.

The bank said it wanted to simplify operations and will pay IOOF $80 million.

BT will continue providing the platform.

Westpac shares closed lower by 1.53 per cent to $19.90.

NAB chief executive Ross McEwan expects the economy will be back to pre-COVID levels by the end of next year.

He gave an upbeat outlook to 2021 and cited the September GDP gain of 3.3 per cent.

“We now think the economy will be back to 2019 growth levels by the end of 2021,” he said.

Shares closed down 2.01 per cent to $23.37.

ANZ closed lower by 1.44 per cent to $23.24 and the Commonwealth shed 1.84 per cent to $83.16.

In mining, BHP lost 0.35 per cent to $43.15, Fortescue rose 2.23 per cent to $22.91 and Rio Tinto climbed 0.94 per cent to $117.53.

The Aussie dollar was buying 75.91 US cents at 1715 AEDT, lower from 75.94 US cents at Thursday’s close.


* The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed lower by 81.2 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 6675.5 on Friday.

* The All Ordinaries closed down 76.0 points, or 1.09 per cent, to 6924.1.

* At 1715 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was higher by 11 points, or 0.17 per cent, to 6617.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 75.91 US cents, from 75.94 cents on Thursday

* 78.48 Japanese yen, from 78.43 yen

* 61.98 Euro cents, from 62.09 cents

* 56.07 British pence, from 55.99 pence

* 106.44 NZ cents, from 106.40 cents.

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