ASX delivers modest gains ahead of Christmas

Australian shares drifted higher in quiet, pre-Christmas trade on Tuesday, snapping a three-day losing streak in the process.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 finished up 9.1 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 6794.2, helped by a late flurry of buying towards the close.

The ASX posted modest gains on Christmas Eve, helped by strength in healthcare and gold stocks.
The ASX posted modest gains on Christmas Eve, helped by strength in healthcare and gold stocks. Credit:Mayu Kanamori

Turnover was understandably low ahead of Christmas, resulting in some unusually large moves in individual stocks. According to Refinitiv data, 201.68 million shares changed hands during the session, the smallest number of trades in a single session since September 19, 2016.

97 stocks closed higher, 92 lower while 11 were unchanged.


Across the sectors, healthcare led the gains with an increase of 1 per cent, helped by a 1.3 per cent advance in CSL Limited, which closed at $282.29. Ramsay Healthcare added 0.7 per cent to $74.23.

Energy rose 0.7 per cent, as Woodside Petroleum climbed 0.9 per cent to $35.04 while Origin Energy chipped in with a gain of 0.6 per cent to $8.61.

Industrials added 0.5 per cent, with Brambles lifting 0.8 per cent to $12.08, while Sydney Airport climbed 1.5 per cent to $9.10.

Despite Australian benchmark government bond yields rising to the highest level since early November on Monday, REITs still managed to post a gain of 0.4 per cent.

Elsewhere, materials rose 0.3 per cent, helped in part by strength in gold miners. Indeed, of the top ten gainers on the benchmark index, seven were gold producers. Gold Road Resources led the advance, jumping 7.7 per cent to $1.195.

The broader All Ordinaries gold index finished the session up 2.7 per cent. Like REITs, it clearly wasn’t impacted by the continued rise in bond yields.

On the downside, consumer staples fell 0.6 per cent, weighed by a 1.2 per cent slide in Coles Group to $15.25, while rival grocer Woolworths slipped 0.5 per cent to $37.37.

Technology fell 0.5 per cent, with Afterpay Touch finishing down 1 per cent at $29.20.

Telstra shares weakened by 0.5 per cent to $3.65, contributing to a 0.4 per cent slide in telecommunications.

Financials slipped 0.2 per cent, with three of the big four banks finishing flat to lower. Insurers and wealth managers were also pressured. Macquarie Bank managed to buck the broader trend, rising 0.2 per cent to $139.22.

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