Australian shares have lifted to their highest level ever, driven by banks, miners and technology stocks.
This was despite global markets essentially treading water overnight as sharp falls in gold and oil prices, and concerns over the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant, dented investor sentiment.
The ASX 200 index was up 0.4 per cent (to 7,568 points) by 10:30am AEST.
Some of the best performing stocks were lithium producers Orocobre (+6.1pc) and Pilbara Minerals (+3.8pc), Pointsbet (+6pc), Zip Co (+3.3pc) and Kogan (+3pc).
The Australian dollar slipped to 73.3 US cents (down 0.3 per cent).
Oil markets experienced the heaviest losses, on the back of a stronger US dollar and concerns that new COVID-related restrictions in Asia, especially China, could slow a global recovery in fuel demand.
Brent crude futures dropped 2.1 per cent (to $US69.25 per barrel).
US housing boom lifts James Hardie
Shares in James Hardie Industries jumped 4.3 per cent (to $50), after the world’s largest fibre cement maker raised its profit forecast for the 2021-22 financial year.
The company is counting on the ongoing boom in the US housing market to keep growing, while shortages of materials and labour also pushed up prices, boosting its margins.
Its first-quarter adjusted earnings soared 50 per cent (to $US134.2 million), while net sales jumped 35 per cent (to $US843.3 million).
James Hardie, which also operates in Europe, Australia and the Philippines, raised its current financial year adjusted profit forecast.
It now expects to earn between $US550 million and $US590 million (up from $US520 million to $US570 million).
‘Over-invested’ in the COVID recovery
“With the Delta variant spreading, money managers who were over-invested in the reopening trade continue to unwind that trade because it’s not working right now,” said Dennis Dick, a trader at Bright Trading LLC.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index fell 107 points (or 0.3 per cent) to 35,102.
The broader S&P 500 lost 0.1 per cent (to 4,432 points), while the Nasdaq Composite went up (+0.2 per cent) to 14,860.
A strong earnings season had helped US stocks climb to record highs over the past fortnight, as several consensus-beating results from major firms reinforced belief in a post-COVID economic recovery.
Of the 443 companies in the S&P index that have reported earnings so far, an overwhelming majority (87 per cent) have beaten analyst expectations, the highest on record, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Bitcoin hit a three-month high as the volatile cryptocurrency broke through the $US46,000 barrier (up 7 per cent).
The digital currency has been hovering in the $US30,000 range for months, after plunging from its mid-April record high ($US64,829).
Meanwhile, spot gold slumped 1.9 per cent (to $US1,729.43 an ounce), its weakest level in more than four months.