Directionless ASX closes barely changed

The ASX closed barely changed after a directionless session, weighed down by banks and miners, but some tech and biotech stocks fared well.

The Australian sharemarket inched slightly higher as it struggled to find direction, with tech stocks among the winners and miners among the losers.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index climbed to a new intraday record high of 7315 before closing just 10.7 points or 0.15 per cent higher at 7292.6 while the All Ordinaries Index lifted a mere 10.7 points or 0.14 per cent to 7542.3.

CommSec analyst James Tao said the big four banks were a mixed bag, with the losers weighing on the market.

ANZ slipped 0.21 per cent to $28.76, Commonwealth Bank gave up 0.44 per cent to $101.48, National Australia Bank rose 0.49 per cent to $26.77 and Westpac appreciated 0.38 per cent to $26.73.

Westpac and its subsidiaries St George, Bank of Melbourne and BankSA hiked their two- and three-year fixed rates for owner-occupiers by 0.10 per cent.

RateCity research director Sally Tindall said it came as no surprise as CBA did the same last month.

“The fixed rate market is set to look completely different by this time next year,” she said.

“Right now, there are still 176 home loan rates under 2 per cent but by mid-2022, there could be none.”

Standard & Poor Global Ratings revised its outlook on Australia’s AAA rating from negative to stable, in line with the quicker and stronger than expected economic recovery, which was mirrored in its improved outlooks for the big four banks.

Woodside Petroleum announced it had agreed with the West Australian government to set new interim and long-term targets to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at its Pluto LNG project in the state’s Pilbara region.

Woodside shares were 0.5 per cent weaker at $23.89.

After iron ore prices fell by more than 2 per cent overnight, Rio Tinto backtracked 0.93 per cent to $124.16, BHP dropped 0.96 per cent to $48.38 and Fortescue declined 1.02 per cent to $22.42.

OMG chief executive Ivan Tchourilov said there was a bit of movement in the biotech space after digital brain health assessment provider Cogstate announced partner company Eisai had been granted approval to accelerate their development of an Alzheimer’s treatment.

The news sent Cogstate’s shares rocketing by 51.35 per cent to $1.40 and gave other biotech names like Mesoblast a boost, with the stock surging 8.76 per cent to $1.92, Mr Tchourilov said.

“It’s a significant announcement from a fairly unknown player that appears to be making big steps forward in treating Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

There were some winners in the tech sector, with logistics software provider Wisetech Global gaining 5.84 per cent to $31.15 — its best day in about nine months — while buy-now-pay-later market leader Afterpay appreciated 0.85 per cent to $97.20.

The Aussie dollar was fetching 77.45 US cents, 54.77 British pence and 63.6 Euro cents in afternoon trade.

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