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Australian Market Advances

The Australian stock market is advancing on Monday, recouping some of the recent loses, with real estate and cyclical shares lifting the broader market. The main stock index rose above the 6700 level as investors refocused on a vaccine and stimulus-driven global economic recovery. The market ended sharply lower on Friday, hitting four-week lows.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 102.50 points or 1.54 percent to 6,775.80. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 90.50 points or 1.30 percent to 7,031.10. Australian stocks closed lower on Friday.

Among the major miners, BHP Group is advancing nearly 1 percent. Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are edging up nearly 0.5 percent.

Oil stocks are also higher, with Oil Search edging up 0.2 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Santos edging up 0.4 percent

Tech stocks are mixed, Afterpay gaining more than 5 percent, WiseTech Global up almost 1 percent, while Appen is declining nearly 1 percent.

The big four banks are also mostly higher. National Australia Bank, ANZ Banking and Westpac are higher in a range of 1.1 percent to 1.7 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is up more than 2 percent.

Gold miners are mixed, with Newcrest Mining losing nearly 1 percent, while Evolution Mining is up 0.4 percent.

Shares of Austal are up nearly 7 percent after the shipbuilder's US subsidiary was awarded a $235 million (about A$290 million) contract by the U.S. Navy to design and construction the fifteenth expeditionary fast transport (EPF) vessel.

In economic news, the manufacturing sector in Australia continued to expand in February, albeit at a slower pace, the latest survey from Markit Economics showed on Monday with a manufacturing PMI score of 56.9. That's down from January's 37-month high of 57.2, although it remains above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

The manufacturing sector in Australia also continued to expand in February, and at a faster pace, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group showed on Monday with a Performance of Manufacturing Index score of 58.8. That's the highest reading since March of 2018 and is up from 55.3 in January and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Monday that company profits in Australia tumbled a seasonally adjusted 6.6 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2020, well shy or expectations for a decline of 4 percent following the 3,2 percent increase in the third quarter. Business inventories were flat on quarter, shy of expectations for an increase of 0.2 percent after slipping 0.3 percent in the previous three months. On a yearly basis, profits were up 15.1 percent and inventories sank 4.6 percent.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics also said on Monday that the total value of owner-occupied housing loans jumped a seasonally adjusted 10.9 percent on month in January, coming in at A$22.11 billion. Investment lending climbed 9.4 percent to A$6.64 billion, while overall lending rose 10.5 percent to A$28.75 billion.

On Wall Street, stocks saw considerable volatility over the course of the trading day on Friday, following the sell-off seen in the previous session. While a rebound by tech stocks contributed to an advance by the Nasdaq, the Dow posted a steep loss.

The Nasdaq climbed 72.91 points or 0.6 percent to 13,192.34 after ending Thursday's trading at its lowest closing level in a nearly month. Meanwhile, the Dow plunged 469.64 points or 1.5 percent to 30,932.37 and the S&P 500 fell 18.19 points or 0.5 percent to 3,811.15.

Despite the mixed performance on the day, the major averages moved notably lower for the week, with the Nasdaq plummeting 4.9 percent, the S&P 500 tumbling 2.4 percent and the Dow slumping 1.8 percent.

The major European markets also showed notable moves to the downside on Friday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index plunged by 2.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index tumbled by 1.4 percent and the German DAX Index fell by 0.7 percent.

Crude oil prices drifted lower Friday as the dollar gained strength amid rising bond yields and solid economic data. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for April ended down $2.03 or 3.2 percent at $61.50 a barrel.

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