Headline indices of the Australia stock market were higher on Thursday, 19 July 2018, as risk appetite buying continued on tracking positive lead from Wall Street and in Europe market overnight and better than expected domestic employment data. Among ASX sectors, shares in financial, realty, industrial, and materials was the most improved ASX sector, while energy and utilities sector were in the red. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index inclined 26.19 points or 0.42% to 6,271.30. The broader All Ordinaries Index added by 31.86 points or 0.5% to 6,361.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released on Thursday showed Australia unemployment rate steadied at 5.4% in June, even as the economy added a whopping 50,900 jobs. Employment for the previous month was 12,000 addition. Meanwhile, full-time jobs came in at +41,200 compared to -20,600 seen in May. The part-time employment rose 9,700 versus 32,600 last. The participation rate rose to 65.7% in the reported month versus 65.5% previous. It was the largest monthly gain since November and will be a big relief to policy makers after a run of softer months.
Shares of financial companies were key contributor to the index gains, with 'Big Four' banks set the tone, rising between 0.3% and 1%, with Australia and New Zealand Banking the biggest boost.
The Materials sector added to yesterday's gains, supported by gains for South32 after it beat its coking coal output guidance for fiscal 2018, even though fourth quarter output dipped 24%. South32 said it had achieved a record performance at Australia Manganese and a 10% increase in total manganese ore production in FY18 as the group strived to take advantage of stronger demand and pricing.
Among individual stocks, Woodside Petroleum reported a 20% increase in revenue for the second quarter, helped by the ramp up of the Wheatstone LNG project and higher oil prices. However, the company's shares were down as much as 0.5%.
Santos shares were up after reporting a 3% decline in second-quarter production and said it has cut net debt by 4% since the start of the quarter. In addition, the company's board said it will consider a dividend declaration in August.
Shares in Afterpay Touch (APT) surged by as much as 21% after releasing its Q4 business update. The financial technology group said that over $2.18 billion of total underlying sales were processed through the Afterpay platform in FY18, marking a 289% increase compared to a year earlier. Underlying sales in Q4 totalled approximately $736 million, an increase of 171% over the same period last year. APT highlighted a strong start to launch of its U.S. operations since launching in mid-May 2018, with over $11 million of underlying sales in the first full month. FY18 group revenue and other Income is expected to be in the order of $142 million and group EBITDA is expected to be in the order of $33 to $34 million
CURRENCY NEWS: The Australian dollar was up against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local currency was quoted at US$0.7398, up from US$0.7350 on Wednesday.
OFFSHORE MARKET NEWS: US stock market closed modest higher on Wednesday, supported by the Powell reiterating that the U.S. economy was healthy, even though he warned that rising world protectionism would over time pose a risk to the global economic expansion. The S&P 500 index rose 6.07 points, or 0.2%, to 2,815.62. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 79.40 points, or 0.3%, to 25,199.29. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.67 points to 7,854.44.
The major European markets also ended higher on Wednesday. The STOXX600 index lifted by 0.6%, the German DAX index rose by 0.8% and the UK FTSE index rose by 0.7%.
COMMODITY NEWS: Crude oil futures rebounded to settle modestly higher on Wednesday, extending gains to a second successive session. According to the EIA, US crude inventories rose by 5.8 million barrels last week as oil production reached a record 11 million barrels per day. But a drone attack at a Saudi Aramco refinery in Riyadh by Yemen's Houthis supported prices. There were also reports that OPEC compliance with output curbs fell by 27% to 147% in May. Brent crude rose by US74 cents or 1.0% to US$72.90 a barrel. WTI oil for August delivery ended up $0.68 or 1% at $68.76 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Base metal prices were mixed on the London Metal Exchange (LME) on Wednesday. Zinc rose by the most in 12 months, up by 3.8% on speculation that China is taking steps to bolster bank lending. But aluminium was down by 0.6%.
The gold futures price rose by US60 cents an ounce or 0.05% to $1,227.90 an ounce. The spot gold price was trading near US$1,227 an ounce in late US trade.