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The share market pushed towards a fourth straight win as the banks took over the running while the mining giants had a breather.

The S&P/ASX 200 rose 18 points or 0.3 per cent by mid-session to maintain its unblemished December record. The advance kept the index on track for a fifth consecutive winning week.

What’s driving the market

A late swoon on Wall Street capped this morning’s gains. US stocks pared back a solid initial advance following reports Pfizer had been forced to slash its vaccine production plans because of delays in raw materials. The drug-maker now expects to deliver half of its original production target for this year.

“Scaling up the raw material supply chain took longer than expected,” a company spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average cut its gain to 86 points or 0.29 per cent as investors adjusted their expectations for the pace of the vaccine rollout. The S&P 500 finished 0.06 per cent in the red.

US futures later improved as Pfizer insisted this year’s shortfall would be covered when production ramps up. S&P 500 futures climbed six points or 0.2 per cent.

Going up

The financial sector took over the baton following yesterday’s mining-led advance. Macquarie Group rose 2.1 per cent, ANZ 1.3 per cent, CBA 0.9 per cent, NAB 0.8 per cent and Westpac 0.5 per cent. Asset manager Janus Henderson jumped 6.9 per cent.

Yield sectors outperformed. Utilities and consumer staples gained 0.7 per cent and real estate investment trusts 0.5 per cent. AGL Energy put on 2 per cent, Metcash 2.7 per cent, Charter Hall Group 2.3 per cent, Woolworths 0.3 per cent and Coles 0.1 per cent.

Energy stocks welcomed a counter-intuitive rise in crude after OPEC announced plans to lift production curbs in stages from next month. Analysts attributed the rally to relief that the cartel had settled on smaller increases than some members wanted. Woodside gained 0.5 per cent. Santos added 1.6 per cent.  

News of strong online sales since July and record Black Friday/Cyber Monday trading helped lift retail group Premier Investments 0.6 per cent. Chair Solomon Lew told today’s virtual AGM online sales increased 70 per cent over the first 18 weeks of the financial year compared to the same period last year.

Infrastructure specialist Cimic climbed 0.2 per cent to its strongest level since June after winning utilities contracts worth a combined $112 million. Treasury Wine Estates continued to recover from China’s tariff hike, rising 3.2 per cent towards a third straight gain.

Going down

The materials sector eased from yesterday’s 12-year peak amid modest profit-taking. Fortescue Metals retreated 0.5 per cent from an all-time high. BHP dipped 0.1 per cent. Goldminer Newcrest shed 1.5 per cent. Rio Tinto reversed early gains, rising 0.1 per cent.

Other heavyweight drags included IAG -0.4 per cent, Wesfarmers -0.4 per cent and Brambles -0.2 per cent.

Aged care operator Regis Healthcare traded unchanged after knocking back two takeover offers from Washington H. Soul Pattinson and associates. Regis informed shareholders the bids were “opportunistic” and “inadequate”. The board said it remained open to proposals that offered compelling value. Soul Pattinson declined 0.3 per cent.

Other markets

Oil built on its post-OPEC+ decision gains. Brent crude rose 30 cents or 0.6 per cent to $US49.01 a barrel. Gold climbed 80 cents or less than 0.1 per cent to $US1,841.90 an ounce.

China’s Shanghai Composite and Japan’s Nikkei both shed 0.4 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng improved 0.1 per cent.

The dollar receded 0.1 per cent to 74.29 US cents.

What’s hot today and what’s not

Hot today: News of a three-year deal with oil and gas leader Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) boosted engineering technology group Matrix Composites & Engineering (ASX:MCE) to a seven-month high. Matrix will provide engineering services to Woodside Energy Technologies, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the listed company. CEO Aaron Begley said the agreement “further strengthens our relationship with an important customer”. MCE shares jumped 21.4 per cent.

Not today: Shares in betting software company BetMakers (ASX:BET) skidded after its attempted acquisition of UK-based Sportech’s tote and digital business was complicated by a rival bid. Sportech announced it had received a conditional proposal from a third party to buy the company outright. BetMakers said it had a binding agreement with Sportech for the tote and digital business. BET shares slumped 11.3 per cent.

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