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Tech leads ASX higher before RBA decision

An imminent Reserve Bank rates decision has not deterred investors from pushing the ASX higher as they enjoyed momentum from a good lead from US markets.

The Australian market was higher by 0.72 per cent at noon on Tuesday, only hours before the Reserve Bank gives its first forecast on whether a record low cash rate may rise in 2022.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 50.8 points, or 0.72 per cent, to 7022.4 points at 1200 AEDT.

The All Ordinaries index was higher by 61.6 points, or 0.84 per cent, to 7329.9 points.

Information technology shares were the best performers, given gains for some US tech giants overnight.

Afterpay-owner Block soared after completing its purchase of the Australian buy now, pay later provider.

US authorities have given final approval to the $39 billion deal.

Block, formerly known as Square, was up eight per cent to $174.37.

Artificial intelligence software vendor Appen was another technology stock with impressive gains. It rose almost seven per cent to $10.29.

After technology shares, the next best categories were consumer discretionaries, financials and utilities. Each gained about one per cent.

Materials shares were the only sector lower. They lost almost half a per cent.

The Reserve Bank is not expected to raise the cash rate on Tuesday but is tipped to ditch its bond-buying program, otherwise know as quantitative easing.

More interest lies in the bank’s forecast for rates this year.

Interest rates are set to rise around the world after the economic recovery from the coronavirus spawned rampant inflation.

However virus waves continue to trouble the economies. Retail spending tumbled 4.4 per cent in December due to Omicron infections, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed.

In stock specific news, building materials group Boral was higher by six per cent to $6.24 after announcing it will return $3 billion of capital to investors following the sale of several businesses last year.

Shareholders will receive a cash distribution of $2.72 per share. No shares will be cancelled.

Radio Rentals owner Credit Corp was higher by six per cent to $35.98 after posting first-half profit improvement of eight per cent.

The company said it is on track for full-year earnings growth and raised its earnings forecast.

The big miners were lower. BHP was down two per cent to $45.40 a day before it gains size on the ASX from its delisting in the UK.

Rio Tinto was down one per cent to $109.97. Fortescue Metals shed less than one per cent to $19.80.

The banks were all higher. NAB was best of the big four and the only one to rise more than one per cent. Its shares last traded for $27.63.

Private hospital operator Ramsay Health Care noted elective surgery capacity in NSW would improve to 75 per cent from Monday.

The NSW government will allow more elective surgery after the number of coronavirus infections stabilised.

Ramsay also completed the purchase of Elysium Healthcare. Its shares were up one per cent to $63.82.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar was buying 70.66 US cents at 1200 AEDT, higher from 70.14 US cents at Monday’s close.

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