Bumper jobs data, US stimulus bets push Australia shares higher

Bumper jobs data, US stimulus bets push Australia shares higher

Australian shares settled higher on Wednesday as upbeat data pointed towards improving employment figures on the horizon, with energy stocks leading the charge on an upswing in oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.1% at 6,686.6 at the close of trade, with energy stocks being the stand-out performers after leaping 4.3%.

Job vacancies in the country surged 23.4% to hit an all-time high in the November quarter, data showed, signalling the likelihood for stronger employment growth in the offing.

“We’ve seen a bit of a pick-up in the job vacancies numbers, so the economy is starting to come back to some level of normal,” said Steven Daghlian, analyst at CommSec.

“There are a lot of moving parts for a recovery, but one of them is going to be that the vaccine proves effective.”

Some Australian doctors raised concerns over the effectiveness of AstraZeneca‘s COVID-19 vaccine in generating herd immunity, calling for a pause in its rollout.

Expectations of speedy distribution of vaccines have been a major driver in global markets, along with hopes that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden‘s administration will provide more fiscal support to help spur growth in the world’s largest economy.

Woodside Petroleum jumped 5.5% and Oil Search added 6.2% to lead gains in the energy sub-index , which ended at a 10-month high as oil prices rose more than 1% after data showed a bigger-than-expected drop in inventories.

Miners and gold stocks also raked in hefty gains as Chinese steel futures and safe-haven bullion firmed. BHP Group and Newcrest Mining climbed 0.5% and 3.5%, respectively.

However, a third straight session of losses for healthcare and tech stocks weighed on the benchmark and curbed gains.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished 0.5% lower at 13,120.28, with utilities and industrials being the biggest drags.

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