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Miner, Tech Stocks Boost ASX; AGL’s Demerger Fails; ACCC Sues Mastercard

Miner, Tech Stocks Boost ASX; AGL's Demerger Fails; ACCC Sues Mastercard

Australian shares have risen, led by gains in technology stocks tracking a Wall Street rally and mining stocks on new strength in commodity prices, while AGL Energy fell on withdrawing plans for its demerger.

The ASX 200 closed up 104 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 7,287.

The Australian dollar was up at 71.85 US cents at 4.22pm AEST.

Shares of AGL Energy dropped 1.7 per cent to $8.72 after news about the company scrapping its plans to demerge its coal-focused generation business.

It has prompted four senior board members to quit.

Technology stocks led gains on the benchmark, climbing more than 4.6 per cent, tracking a strong Wall Street rally from Friday, with Block’s shares and Xero rising 10.9 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively.

Miners rose about 2.3 per cent to hit their highest since April 29, with sector giants BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group adding between 0.4 per cent and 2.8 per cent.

Financials added 0.6 per cent.

ANZ was up 0.4 per cent to $25.77 despite being sued by the corporate watchdog ASIC for allegedly misleading its customers about how much they have got left to spend on their credit card accounts.

ACCC sues Mastercard for misusing market power
The ACCC has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Mastercard for allegedly engaging in conduct with the purpose of substantially lessening competition in the supply of debit card acceptance services.

Mastercard’s alleged anti-competitive conduct commenced in late 2017 in the context of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s least cost routing initiative.

The RBA’s least cost routing initiative aimed to increase competition in the supply of debit card acceptance services and reduce payment costs for businesses by allowing them to choose the lowest cost network to process their transactions.

This enabled businesses to choose whether their debit transactions were processed by Visa, Mastercard or eftpos, with eftpos often being the cheapest option.

It is alleged that in response to the least cost routing initiative, Mastercard entered into agreements with more than 20 major retail businesses, including supermarkets, fast food chains and clothing retailers.

The agreements gave these businesses discounted rates for Mastercard credit card transactions, provided they committed to processing all or most of their Mastercard-eftpos debit card transactions through Mastercard rather than the eftpos network.

“We are concerned that Mastercard’s alleged conduct meant that businesses did not receive the full benefit of the increased competition that was intended to flow from the least cost routing initiative,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

“Reducing costs for businesses enables them to offer their customers better prices. Making sure the major card schemes, Mastercard, Visa and eftpos, compete vigorously is important for both those businesses and their customers.”

Equities globally traded higher
Global markets enjoyed a broad-based rally on Friday.

Wall Street rallied on after the data, with all three major US stock indexes bringing a decisive end to their longest weekly losing streaks in decades.

The US Federal Reserve, in minutes from its May meeting released earlier this week, called inflation a serious concern.

A majority of the central bankers backed two half-a-percentage-point rate hikes in June and July, as the group attempts to curb inflation without causing a recession.

The Fed did leave room for a pause in hikes if the economy weakens.

Analysts said the consumer spending and inflation data was encouraging and supported growth estimates for the second quarter that are mostly above a 2.0 annualised rate.

“The growth engine of the US economy is still alive and kicking, and that’s important,” said Joe Quinlan, head of CIO Market Strategy for Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank.

“Growth estimates for [the second quarter] are still good. There is a better tone in the market than we have seen in recent weeks, in terms of inflation possibly peaking here. Maybe we can avoid stagflation.”

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 nations, was up 2.12 per cent.

European shares hit a three-week high and rose 1.42 per cent. Britain’s FTSE also hit a three-week high, and was heading for its best weekly showing since mid-March.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 575.77 points, or 1.76 per cent, to 33,212.96, the S&P 500 gained 100.4 points, or 2.47 per cent, to 4,158.24 and the Nasdaq Composite added 390.48 points, or 3.33 per cent, to 12,131.13.