Australian stocks closed higher amid widespread gains on Christmas Eve as investors brushed aside concerns about the economic impact of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The benchmark S & P / ASX200 closed 32.7 points, or 0.44% higher, at 7,420.3 points on Friday.
Gains in four of five sessions before the Christmas break left the index up 1.6 percent for the week.
The All Ordinaries index rose 37.2 points, or 0.48%, to 7,744.7 points.
“Much of this is because Omicron looks like a lesser threat to growth,” said Kyle Rodda, IG market analyst.
“You also have very slim trading conditions so the moves are a bit exaggerated on the upside. But there is certainly some degree of optimism as the Christmas season approaches.”
Investor sentiment around the world has improved after reports that Omicron is less likely to lead to hospitalization compared to previous variants of the coronavirus, and indications that Merck and Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral pills are effective against the variant.
This prompted US markets to rise overnight, sending the S&P 500 to an all-time high, and also contributed to the rebound in oil prices.
Local investors also ignored the rapid spread of viral infections, with NSW surpassing 5,000 cases for the second day in a row and Victoria adding 2,095 new cases.
Each sector index bar ended higher, but the gains were led by the financials and materials sectors.
Financial stocks were dominated by a 6.4% rebound in AMP stock after the wealth management giant agreed to sell AMP Capital’s infrastructure debt division to US firm Ares Management for $ 428 million.
Each of the Big Four also finished firmly in the green.
Large iron ore miners closed higher but fell back as copper and lithium miners rose 3-4% each to stay ahead. Lithium explorer Pilbara Minerals climbed 5.3% to a new record high of $ 2.96.
Energy stocks benefited from an overnight rally in oil prices, with Santos up 2.2% to $ 6.40, while Woodside also finished higher.
Tech stocks turned after Thursday’s drop, in line with the sector’s gains on Wall Street. Afterpay shares rose 1.5% to $ 86.65, while Wisetech Global recovered 1.4% to $ 59.50.
Consumer Staples was the only sector to close in the red, as supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles fell and Blackmores fell 1.8% to $ 90.
Among other notable players, telecommunications giant Telstra hit a new 52-week high of $ 4.15 at the close, up 0.7% for the day. Sonic Healthcare also hit a new annual high of $ 46.63 before slowing down somewhat to close at $ 46.25.
Meanwhile, easing Omicron worries boosted risk appetite, helping the Australian dollar to rise. The local currency bought 72.28 US cents at 1,500 AEDT, up from 72.17 US cents at Thursday’s close.
* The benchmark S & P / ASX200 closed 32.7 points, or 0.44% higher, at 7,420.3 points on Friday.
* The All Ordinaries index rose 37.2 points, or 0.48%, to 7,744.7 points.
* At 1,500 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up 39 points, or 0.53%, to 7,331 points.
An Australian dollar buys:
* 72.28 cents US, compared to 72.17 cents on Thursday
* 82.64 Japanese yen, from 82.43 yen
* 63.81 euro cents, from 63.64 cents
* 53.91 British pence, from 54.06 pence
* 106.11 New Zealand cents, from 105.90 cents.