Afternoon trading March 18

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    Thanks Oscar and morning crew.

    Half-time round-up:

    Aussie shares surrendered early gains as gains in resource stocks on reports of progress in US-China trade were offset by declines in yield stocks.

    The ASX 200 dipped two points or less than 0.1 per cent to 6173 after earlier rising as much as 26 points. The market steadily lost altitude as risk assets including US equity futures and crude oil retreated this morning.

    The session began brightly as traders bought companies exposed to any improvement in Chinese demand for raw materials. Mining giant Rio Tinto rose 1.9 per cent to its highest level since the company went ex-dividend earlier this month. Index heavyweight BHP put on 1%. That helped push the metals & mining sector up 1.1 per cent and materials 0.8 per cent.

    The early rally followed a positive end to the week on Wall Street, where sentiment was boosted by reports out of China of "concrete progress" in trade talks. The Xinhua news agency said a high-ranking Chinese government official, Vice Premier Liu He, had spoken with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The seniority of the officials involved raised hopes that the two sides are close to completing a deal to end their damaging trade war. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq finished the session at five-month highs. The S&P 500 gained 0.5 per cent and the Nasdaq 0.76 per cent.

    Back here, the I.T. sector edged up 0.2 per cent as logistics software provider Wisetech Global lifted 2 per cent to a one-month high and Bravura Solutions 2.5 per cent to a new record. The financials sector shed 0.3 per cent, with three of the big four banks retreated. ANZ was the best of the bunch with an advance of 0.2 per cent.

    Financial services provider HUB24 debuted on the ASX 200 this morning with a tumble of 4.4 per cent after touching a three-month high on Friday as index-tracking fund managers added the stock. Fellow newcomer Pinnacle Investment fared better this morning, rising 2.6 per cent.

    Telecom Vocus Group fell 3.3 per cent despite denying weekend reports that the company may need to raise capital. The company issued a statement this morning saying management were comfortable with the current debt position and had no current intention to seek additional funding.

    Over in Asia, China's Shanghai Composite opened flat, Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged up 0.2 percent and Japan's Nikkei 0.32 per cent. S&P 500 futures wererecently down five points or 0.2 per cent.

    Crude oil futures retreated 27 cents or 0.5 per cent this morning to $US58.25 a barrel. Gold futures eased $3.80 or 0.3 per cent to $US1,299.10 an ounce. The dollar was buying 70.88 US cents.

    A slow start to the trading week, with no major economic news scheduled here today or in the US or Europe tonight. Things pick up here tomorrow with the release of the minutes from the last Reserve Bank meeting, which should provide clues to the bank's latest thinking on rates. The quarterly house price index is also due.

    Trading: spent the weekend getting to grips with Iress Viewpoint for the moment CommSec pulls the plug on its Trader software. Lasted 15 minutes on Viewpoint this morning before scurrying back to the familiarity bright colours and layout of Trader. Couldn't tell if nothing was happening on the market in those first 15 minutes, or lots was happening but I couldn't see it. Gulp. Not looking forward to the switch. No trades yet. Watching SPT but would like it lower.

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