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Tech, health shares help ASX to minor gain


By Steven Deare in Sydney
Source: AAP

Shares improved in early ASX trade while figures showing Chinese factory activity is slowing may concern global investors.

Technology and healthcare stocks were helping the ASX indices follow Wall Street to minor improvements after the first two hours trading on Tuesday.

Shares in artificial intelligence software vendor Appen bounced by more than six per cent.

In health, Sonic Healthcare rose 1.81 per cent. CSL improved by about one per cent.

The major categories of materials and financials were slightly lower.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was higher by 15.6 points, or 0.20 per cent, to 7520.1 at 1200 AEST.

The All Ordinaries was up 17 points, or 0.21 per cent, to 7805.6.

China’s factory activity expanded at a slower pace in August, while the services sector contracted, as coronavirus restrictions and high raw material prices put pressure on businesses.

China had an impressive recovery from a coronavirus-battered slump, but economic growth has recently shown signs of easing.

Overnight, the US S&P 500 and Nasdaq ended at fresh record highs.

Traders remain buoyed by US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell not putting a time frame on the easing of economic support while speaking to the Jackson Hole symposium this week.

Mr Powell only said tapering could begin this year.

In Australia, millions of people in the ACT, NSW and Victoria remain in lockdown due to coronavirus infections.

Home goods retailer Harvey Norman has repaid more than $6 million in federal government JobKeeper wage subsidies following repeated lobbying.

The Gerry Harvey-led group in August returned to taxpayers all of the $6.02 million in wages and support collected since the pandemic began.

Full-year net profit for 2020/21 rose to $841 million, including outlet property valuations, and was up 75 per cent from the previous financial year.

Shares were down almost two per cent to $5.45.

Mining group IGO improved full-year earnings and sales by three per cent.

The nickel and copper miner’s profit was helped by the sale of its Tropicana gold mine.

Shareholders will receive a fully franked final dividend of 10 cents per share.

Shares were up a little more than one per cent to $9.62.

The big iron ore miners were all lower. Fortescue had the biggest loss, 0.65 per cent, after shares surged on Monday following its full-year earnings.

The big banks were all lower, too. ANZ fared worst and dropped 0.6 per cent.

Payment instalments provider Splitit is replacing boss Brad Paterson in what it said was a proactive change of leadership.

Former Macy’s chief operations officer John Harper has taken over as interim chief executive.

Splitit will look for a permanent replacement.

Shares were down 1.11 per cent to 44 cents.

The Australian dollar was buying 72.98 US cents at 1200 AEST, higher than 72.94 US cents at Monday’s close.

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