Aussie shares to gain on virus drug hopes

Shares on the Australian market are set for gains after US stocks surged overnight following promising results for a COVID-19 treatment.

The Australian SPI 200 futures contract was up 108 points, or 2.01 per cent, at 5,468.0 points at 0800 AEST on Thursday.

ANZ Bank has announced it will delay paying shareholders an interim dividend after first-half cash profit plunged 62 per cent to $1.32 billion.

The fall in profit was due to higher credit charges and COVID-19 impairments.

Overnight, big tech companies provided the biggest lift to the US S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, and pushed all three major US stock averages closer to their all-time highs reached in February.

Drugmaker Gilead Sciences announced that its drug Remdesivir is showing promise as an effective treatment for COVID-19, which has killed more than 226,000 people across the world.

The news boosted the broader market and sent Gilead shares up 5.7 per cent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.21 per cent, to 24,633.86, the S&P 500 gained 2.66 per cent, to 2,939.51 and the Nasdaq Composite added 3.57 per cent, to 8,914.71.

Elsewhere on the home front, Bank of Queensland will publish first half results.

Woolworths is scheduled to provide its third quarter supermarket sales update, which would likely have been boosted by panic-buying from the coronavirus pandemic.

Rival Coles on Wednesday reported third quarter supermarket sales jumped by 13 per cent, but its share price finished 4.4 per cent lower when the market closed.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index finished higher on Wednesday, closing up 80.3 points, or 1.51 per cent, at 5,393.4.

The All Ordinaries index finished 82.6 points higher, or 1.53 per cent, at 5,463.8.

One Aussie dollar was buying 65.57 US cents at 0800 AEST, up from 65.36 US cents at Wednesday’s close.

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