Tech, health shares up but ASX flat

Tech, health shares up but ASX flat

Investors have mostly eased off buying Aussie shares after the market set a record closing level the previous day.

Information technology and healthcare shares gained more than one per cent but there were few sizeable moves elsewhere.

Afterpay, one of the biggest technology shares, climbed 3.13 per cent to $109.16.

Healthcare and market giant CSL gained 1.36 per cent to $293.18.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was higher by 2.8 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 7389.2 at 1200 AEST on Friday.

The All Ordinaries was up 8.2 points, or 0.10 per cent, to 7667.1.

US markets had modest increases earlier.

Technology giants such as Apple, Amazon and Facebook rose ahead of issuing quarterly results next week.

The number of US workers filing first-time applications for unemployment benefits spiked unexpectedly to 419,000 last week, a two-month high.

Market participants are watching labour market indicators for hints as to when the Federal Reserve, expected to convene next week for a monetary policy meeting, will talk about hiking interest rates from near zero.

Meanwhile New Zealand has suspended travel ties with Australia as several states deal with coronavirus outbreaks.

More than 14 million people are in lockdown across the country.

On the market, Star Entertainment has withdrawn its merger proposal for Crown Resorts.

A royal commission has raised the prospect the gaming group could lose the licence for its Melbourne casino.

Star, which operates The Star casino in Sydney, said it had limited engagement with Crown since its offer to create a $12 billion tourism and entertainment giant in May.

Star shares were even at $3.55. Crown shares were down 2.24 per cent to $10.02.

Insurer IAG said a full-year net loss of $427 million is expected when it reports earnings on August 11.

However, company leaders felt confident enough to reinstate guidance for this financial year.

They forecast growth in gross written premiums to range in the low, single digits.

Money set aside to cover harsh weather and environmental impacts will increase from $658 million last financial year to $765 million.

Shares were up 0.1 per cent to $4.86.

Among the major categories on the ASX, materials shares were lower by 0.16 per cent.

Iron ore prices moved lower overnight and did not help the big miners.

BHP, Fortescue and Rio Tinto all lost less than half a per cent.

Financial shares were down by about half a per cent.

ANZ fared worst of the big four banks and lost one per cent to $27.72.

The other three were all lower.

Horizon Oil shares jumped after the company increased the value of its proposed share capital return for investors.

Horizon in June proposed returning 1.4 cents per share to investors.

However, the proposed amount has been raised to three cents, given a robust outlook for oil demand.

Shares were up 13.6 per cent to 12 cents.

Gold miner Evolution has raised $400 million from institutional investors and shares resumed trading.

The share sale will help fund the $400 million purchase of gold mines in Western Australia from Northern Star.

Evolution will raise a further $50 million from retail shareholders.

Shares were up 5.15 per cent to $4.28.

The Australian dollar was buying 73.84 US cents at 1200 AEST, up from 73.65 US cents at Thursday's close.

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