Iron ore miners carry ASX to modest gain
Mining giants benefited from a higher iron ore price and helped the Australian share market be one of the best in the region with one day of the trading week remaining.
Materials shares gained 2.56 per cent and iron ore miners thrived after their rivals in Brazil stopped work due to torrential rain.
The reduced supply of the steel-making commodity helped its price to about $US130 per tonne earlier in the day.
Rio Tinto was a top beneficiary and increased by 4.13 per cent to $111.70.
BHP gained 3.83 per cent to $46.85. Fortescue improved by 2.49 per cent to $21.40.
Energy and utilities shares were the next best category.
They benefited from the price of Brent oil hovering at about $US84.36. There are questions about supply due to surging coronavirus infections.
Origin Energy was up about three per cent to $5.70. Beach Energy and Woodside each gained a little more than two per cent.
Technology and healthcare shares were the worst performers.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 35.5 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 7474.4 points.
The All Ordinaries index closed higher by 35.3 points, or 0.45 per cent, to 7797.5 points.
The ASX followed Wall Street higher despite US headline inflation reaching seven per cent for the 12 months through December.
IG Markets analyst Kyle Rodda said the figures were expected as were US rate hikes.
"The figure didn't overshoot expectations and doesn't justify an even more hawkish pivot from the Federal Reserve," he said.
In Australia, demand for mortgages is expected to slow as the housing price boom eases.
House prices - as measured by CoreLogic - rose just one per cent in December. This was the slowest pace in almost a year.
Meanwhile, Qantas is reducing the number of flights as people grow more wary of surging virus infections.
Domestic capacity for the third quarter will drop from 102 per cent to 70 per cent of pre-COVID levels.
International capacity will drop from 30 per cent to 20 per cent.
The news came after the market closed.
Shares were down 2.35 per cent to $4.99.
Private equity group Blackstone increased its bid for Crown Resorts and this time the casino operator looks likely to accept.
Blackstone raised its bid by 60 cents per share to $13.10 per share, which equates to an $8.87 billion proposal.
Crown said it was in shareholders' interests to discuss the offer further and the company will encourage Blackstone to make a binding bid.
Shares were up 8.77 per cent to $12.65.
Bell Financial Group has forecast lower full-year profit when it publishes its earnings in February.
Bell said profit after tax would be $44 million, down from $46.7 million the previous year.
Sales were expected to slip to $292 million. The group had sales of $299 million from a year earlier.
Shares were down 5.88 per cent to $1.76.
The Bank of Queensland was best of the major banks. Its shares gained 1.58 per cent to $8.34.
Afterpay dropped 1.31 per cent after gaining 4.75 per cent the previous day from progress in its merger with payments giant Block.
Shares in the buy now, pay later provider last swapped for $75.99.
The Australian dollar was buying 72.86 US cents at 1709 AEDT, higher from 72.17 US cents at Wednesday's close.
ON THE ASX
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 35.5 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 7474.4 points on Thursday.
* The All Ordinaries index closed higher by 35.3 points, or 0.45 per cent, to 7797.5 points.
* At 1709 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was even at 7366 points.
One Australian dollar buys:
* 72.86 US cents, from 71.17 cents on Wednesday
* 83.46 Japanese yen, from 83.23 yen
* 63.67 Euro cents, from 63.45 cents
* 53.15 British pence, from 52.90 pence
* 106.26 NZ cents, from 106.22 cents.