ASX up 0.58pc, health sector leads gains

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Shares were higher on the Australian market and most sectors up, as health and consumer stocks led the gains.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index rose by 39 points, or 0.58 per cent, to 6747.2 at 1300 AEDT on Monday.

The All Ordinaries was higher by 32.6 points, or 0.46 per cent, at 6992.2.

The health sector was top and had a rise of 2.05 per cent. CSL jumped 2.44 per cent to $260.15.

Next best was consumer discretionaries, up 1.96 per cent, and consumer staples, up 1.77 per cent.

Energy was up 1.63 per cent, while the only sector lower was materials, down 0.59 per cent after iron ore prices fell.

The ASX indices have defied a mostly lower lead from US markets on Friday.

US bank stocks fell after the Federal Reserve said it would end some of the emergency measures put in place last year to help the financial industry deal with the pandemic.

The move will restore some of the capital requirements for big banks that were suspended in the early months of the coronavirus outbreak, in order to give banks flexibility. Banking leaders had hoped those measures would be extended.

In Australia, the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines entered Phase 1b on Monday.

More than six million Australians are eligible, including everyone over the age of 70.

On the ASX, an $8 billion offer for gaming giant Crown Resorts from a US investment fund could be good news for shareholders of the troubled group.

US private equity group Blackstone has made an unsolicited, non-binding offer of $11.85 cash per share.

The offer represents a premium of 19 per cent to Crown’s weighted average share price in the weeks since it released its first-half results.

ThinkMarkets analyst Carl Capolingua said the Blackstone bid looked cheap.

He cited Las Vegas gambling giant Wynn Resorts’ offer in 2019 of $10 billion.

Crown shares were higher by 18.2 per cent to $11.65.

Two of the big banks have settled legal disputes in the US.

ANZ and the Commonwealth said they settled a class action in the US from 2016.

The Southern District of New York took action against banks, including the Australian ones, over the bank bill swap rate and the trading of related products.

The settlements were confidential, the banks said.

They also said the financial impacts were not material.

ANZ was up 0.81 per cent to $28.46, the Commonwealth was higher by 0.02 per cent to $84.73, NAB rose 0.92 per cent to $26.17 and Westpac gained 0.53 per cent to $24.65.

Coles and Woolworths were each higher by more than two per cent as the consumer staples sector thrived. Coles shares fetched $15.81 while Woolworths shares traded for $39.80.

In mining, BHP shed 0.71 per cent to $44.58, Fortescue dropped 4.44 per cent to $19.12 and Rio Tinto declined by 1.43 per cent to $107.50.

The Australian dollar was buying 77.19 US cents at 1300 AEDT, lower from 77.44 US cents at Friday’s close.

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