Australian Market Modestly Higher

The Australian stock market is modestly higher on Thursday, extending gains to a third straight day, following the mostly positive cues overnight from Wall Street on news about a potential coronavirus vaccine and upbeat U.S. manufacturing data.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 19.50 points or 0.33 percent to 5,953.90, after touching a high of 5,970.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 22.60 points or 0.37 percent to 6,063.60. Australian stocks closed higher on Wednesday.

In the tech space, Afterpay is rising more than 4 percent, while Appen and WiseTech Global are adding more than 1 percent each.

Among the major miners, BHP is declining almost 1 percent, while Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are down 0.5 percent each.

Gold miners are also weak after gold prices ended lower overnight. Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining are down more than 1 percent each.

Oil stocks are mostly lower even as crude oil prices rose overnight. Oil Search is adding almost 1 percent, while Santos is lower by 0.4 percent, and Woodside Petroleum is down 0.3 percent.

In the banking sector, ANZ Banking, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank are down in a range of 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent.

Woolworths has been fined A$1 million by the Australian communications watchdog for breaching anti-spam laws by sending customers marketing emails even after they had unsubscribed from the emails. However, the supermarket giant's shares are rising 0.6 percent.

Qantas Airways said it is offering retail shareholders a 2.5 percent discount in a share purchase plan to raise A$500 million, following a A$1.4 billion placement to institutional investors that it completed last week. The airline's shares are advancing more than 1 percent.

Kathmandu Holdings said it expects full-year adjusted EBITDA to be above A$70 million, compared to A$99.6 million in the prior year, but said it remains cautious about medium-term levels of consumer demand. The outdoor wear retailer's shares are gaining almost 8 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will release May figures for imports, exports and trade balance today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6913, compared to $0.6898 on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 moved notably higher on Wednesday, while the Dow showed a lack of direction before closing in negative territory. The upward moves by the Nasdaq and S&P 500 came after drug giant Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTech announced positive data from an early-stage human trial of a potential coronavirus vaccine. Adding to the overall positive sentiment, the Institute for Supply Management released a report showing U.S. manufacturing activity unexpectedly expanded in the month of June.

The Dow declined 77.91 points or 0.3 percent to 25,734.97, while the Nasdaq jumped 95.86 points or 1 percent to 10,154.63 and the S&P 500 climbed 15.57 points or 0.5 percent to 3,115.86.

The major European closed modestly lower on Wednesday in a choppy session. While the German DAX Index fell by 0.4 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index both edged down by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil futures ended notably higher on Wednesday, as official data showed a sharp fall in U.S. crude inventories last week. Data showing improvement in manufacturing activity in the U.S., China and Germany contributed as well to oil's surge. WTI crude for August delivery climbed $0.55 or about 1.4 percent to $39.82 a barrel.

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