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Materials help lift Aust shares early

Shares have started slightly higher on the Australian market despite a negative lead from Wall Street due to worries on rising US unemployment.
The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was higher by 9.8 points, or 0.16 per cent, at 6020.7 points after the first 30 minutes of trade on Friday.

The All Ordinaries index was 9.5 points, or 0.16 per cent higher, at 6132.5.

Telecommunications was the best performing sector, higher by 0.62 per cent, followed by materials, up 0.6 per cent.

The miners were helping keep the indices positive.

Rio Tinto gained 0.98 per cent to $104.52 after it reported a 1.5 per cent rise in iron ore shipments for the June quarter following strong Chinese demand for the steelmaking component.

Fortescue did even better, up 1.55 per cent to $16.36, while BHP rose 0.66 per cent to $38.01.

Steelmaker BlueScope managed a 0.09 per cent rise to $11.40 despite flagging an earnings hit from the coronavirus.

The company expects second half earnings to be about $260 million. BlueScope had earlier said those earnings would be $302.4 million, but later scrapped the forecast.

Energy and financials were among sectors in negative territory, down 0.47 and 0.06 per cent respectively.

In banking, Westpac gained 0.11 per cent to $17.83 despite a class action looming that alleges the bank and St George Finance colluded with car dealers to charge customers inflated interest on loans. Westpac said it will defend the case.

ANZ Bank dipped 0.27 per cent to $18.44, the Commonwealth dropped 0.01 per cent to $72.63 and NAB edged lower by 0.36 per cent to $18.00.

Big energy providers Beach and Oil Search lost more than 1.0 per cent amid sector-wide weakness after the OPEC+ group agreed to increase crude oil production.

Overnight in the US, data showed 1.3 million workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, largely due to coronavirus restrictions and impact, taking the total to 32 million Americans on unemployment benefits.

That resulted in all three major US indices closing in the negative.

The Australian dollar was trading lower after the US dollar rose against major currencies for the first time in six trading days. It was at 69.81 US cents by 1030 AEST, down from 69.92 US cents at Thursday’s close.

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