Property deal speculation boosts ASX

Higher commodity prices and deal speculation in the property sector pushed the ASX to gains on Tuesday, with the benchmark closing firmly over the 6000 level.

The S&P/ASX 200 index notched up its fourth straight session of gains, climbing 14 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 6013, while the broader All Ordinaries added 11 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 6093.

The n dollar reached US75.34c in late trading. The Aussie has come perilously close to breaking though the US75c level recently and softer housing data on Tuesday worked to hold the currency close to that level.

The housing market has begun to gently cool following recent macroprudential moves, noted Fidelity n Opportunities Fund portfolio manager Kate Howitt.

Still, financial conditions remain supportive for business, Ms Howitt said, and that divergence “provides the RBA with an even greater ability to finesse monetary policy.”

“If we see wage growth, expect modest rate increases; if we see rising unemployment, expect modest rate cuts – meaning that the consumer and housing sectors have a reasonable chance of continuing to trundle along. So against the historical odds, we could see the current n economic expansion continue.”

The property sector took centre stage on Tuesday, after mall giant Westfield halted trading in its shares and told investors that it was in talks over a possible deal.

Elsewhere in the listed property sector, Scentre climbed 4.1 per cent, Dexus jumped 3.1 per cent, Mirvac rose 2.9 per cent, Vicinity Centres rose 2.5 per cent, GPT climbed 2.4 per cent.

Miners and energy companies were among the strongest performers on Tuesday, with BHP Billiton up 1.7 per cent, Rio Tinto up 1.1 per cent, Woodside up 1.7 per cent and Origin Energy up 1.9 per cent.

The gains came after copper prices got a boost after vehicle and loans data from China pointed to improved consumer confidence while oil surged back to 2015 levels after a pipeline shutdown in the North Sea.

ANZ shares rose 1.1 per cent with the banking group announcing that it will sell its life insurance business to the n arm of Switzerland’s Zurich for $2.85 billion.

Medibank shares declined 1.2 per cent. Online retailer Kogan老域名出售 said that it will start selling budget health insurance policies under a new brand dubbed Kogan Health, after signing a deal with the private health insurer. Kogan老域名出售 gained 1.5 per cent.

Asaleo Care, owner of the Sorbent toilet paper brand, lost 5 per cent after flagging a lower full year net profit of between $57 million and $58 million, compared to $59 million a year ago, with the firm blaming aggressive pricing tactics from competitors for the expected result. Stock Watch: DigitalX

Bitcoin fever spilled over to the ASX, with shares in DigitalX rocketing 4.4 per cent higher to 24 cents. Investors are overjoyed at the blockchain technology company’s decision to return to the cryptocurrency market place as a market maker on approved cryptocurrency exchanges. According to an announcement this morning, its board has approved the use of up to $1 million to provide liquidity to both sides of the cryptocurrency market while maintaining a small new open position in the asset being traded. As such, DigitalX will maintain bid and ask limit orders below and above the spot price. Management expects this to produce its best results for DigitalX when price volatility is high. CEO Leigh Travers said: “We wound down our trading desk last year due to a lack of funding, however, our strong financial position, together with the appreciation in the value of Bitcoin, has allowed us to reignite this service.” At present DigitalX holds $18 million in liquid assets, this includes $5 million in cash, over $10 million in Bitcoin, and approximately $2 million in Ether. Business conditions

Business conditions more than gave back sharp gains from last month, with the business conditions index falling 9 points to 12 index points – albeit still well above the long-run average (+5). Meanwhile, business confidence is currently in line with long-run average levels, at +6 index points (down from +9 last month), although there has been a notable downward trend in the series since around the middle of the year. NAB’s chief economist Alan Oster said: “we expected to see last month’s spike in business conditions unwound fairly quickly as it both came as a bit of a surprise, and was also out of sorts with what we were seeing in some of the other leading indicators from the survey, such as forward orders. But even after this decline, business conditions are still very much above the long-run average.” Oil

Brent crude oil prices jumped above $US65 per barrel for the first time since 2015 after the shutdown of the Forties North Sea pipeline knocked out significant supplies from a market that was already tightening due to OPEC-led production cuts. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $US65.07 a barrel at market close on Tuesday, up 37 cents, or 0.6 per cent from their last close. It was the first time Brent rose above $US65 since June 2015. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $US58.21 a barrel, up 22 cents, or 0.4 per cent from their last settlement. Asian stocks

Asian equities were pulling back after three sessions of gains. lower as traders awaited US and European central bank meetings this week for further clues on the 2018 policy outlook. Benchmarks in Tokyo sat on recent gains, while Korean shares slipped. US stock indexes hit fresh highs on Monday night with most major American gauges advancing, led by more than 1 per cent increases in media, telephone and technology-hardware shares. Investors shrugged off a non-fatal explosion in New York in what was called a terrorist attack. Volumes remained lacklustre ahead of the year’s final Federal Reserve and European Central Bank meetings. Metals

There was a broad-based upswing in metals on Tuesday with copper prices gaining 1.5 per cent, lifting for the fourth straight session. Zinc bumped 1.4 per cent higher. Metal investors were buoyed by a weaker US dollar and data from top consumer China that indicated higher demand. Aluminium closed 0.5 per cent higher, nickel was up 2.7 per cent and lead was up 1.6 per cent. A lower US currency makes dollar-denominated metals cheaper for non-US firms. The dollar slipped against a trade-weighted basket of currencies on lacklustre US wage data.

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