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ASX gains for 3rd day as gold prices jump

Derek Rose
The futures market is pointing to a positive start for the ASX

The Australian share market has closed higher for a third day, with gains in most sectors and gold miners a standout as the price of the precious metal jumped to a six-year high.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index overcame a choppy morning to finish up 39.3 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 6,687.4 points at 1615 AEST on Thursday, while the broader All Ordinaries was up 39.4 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 6,767.9.

Every sector was higher save for energy stocks, which were dragged down by Caltex Australia after it said an economic slowdown would halve its first-half profit.

Shares in the service station owner plunged 13.3 per cent to $23.40, and competitor Viva Energy Group - which operates service stations under the Shell and Liberty brands - also posted sharp losses, declining eight per cent to $2.06.

Elsewhere, the gold sector posted strong gains as the price of the yellow metal spiked following dovish comments by the Federal Open Market Committee members in the United States.

Gold was up three per cent to $US1,385 an ounce, its highest level since late 2013.

Evolution Mining gained seven per cent to $4.39, Northern Star was up 9.3 per cent to $11.69, Newcrest Mining up 4.1 per cent to $31.78 and St Barbara was up 10.1 per cent to $2.94.

Shares in Newcrest were at their highest level since 2012 while Evolution and Northern Star were at an all-time high.

The Fed comments overshadowed a speech by Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe, who also sounded a dovish tone, leading NAB economists to predict a second rate cut would come in July rather than August, as previously expected.

Rio Tinto dragged the mining sector down after the giant said it was experiencing operational challenges at its hub in the Pilbara and cut its iron ore production guidance by 13 million tonnes.

Rio shares were down four per cent to $101.47, while BHP was down 0.3 per cent to $40.85 and Fortescue Metals dropped 0.5 per cent to $8.72.

Resolute Mining was the biggest gainer among the ASX200, up 10.2 per cent to $1.19 after it listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The big four banks were all up, with Commonwealth gaining 0.7 per cent to $82.89, Westpac up 0.3 per cent to $28.40, NAB up 0.5 per cent to $26.96 and ANZ up 0.7 per cent to $28.88.

Bank of Queensland shares fell 0.2 per cent to $9.58 after its chief financial officer Matt Baxby resigned to pursue other opportunities.

Tech shares were the biggest gainers, up 2.2 per cent as a whole, with Afterpay Touch up 6.5 per cent to $23.49, Altium up 5.6 per cent to $35.13 and Appen up 4.4 per cent to $28.18.

Industrials were up 1.3 per cent, with Sydney Airport helping the sector after it gained 4.4 per cent to $8.27 following word its passenger numbers were up 2.4 per cent in May compared to a year ago.

The Aussie dollar gained against its US counterpart after the Fed comments, buying 69.05 US cents, from 68.76 US cents on Wednesday.

Looking forward, Sydney market analyst Nick Twidale said traders will be watching next week's G20 summit with investors hoping Donald Trump won't sabotage a trade deal with China.

"The risk right now is something will happen with trade," he said.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 39.3 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 6,687.4 points at 1630 AEST on Thursday.

* The All Ordinaries was up 39.4 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 6,767.9.

* At 1630 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was up 29 points, or 0.44 per cent, to 6,614.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEST:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 69.05 US cents, from 68.76 US cents on Wednesday

* 74.30 Japanese yen, from 74.43 yen

* 61.23 euro cents, from 61.42 cents

* 54.38 British pence, from 54.78 pence

* 104.96 NZ cents, from 105.31 cents