By Tom Richardson

Australian shares added 0.2 per cent at lunchtime as the tech sector followed Wall Street higher, after US Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell said he still expected rate cuts this year.

Commonwealth Bank shares added 1 per cent to an all-time high of $119.37 per share, despite analysts widely rating the stock as a sell.

Westpac shares climbed 0.4 per cent to $27.06 at their highest level since 2015, with National Australia Bank shares climbing to a post-GFC high of $34.36.

“Investors think interest rates have peaked, and the outlook is for lower interest rates, so people seem happy to buy at a 4 per cent yield for premium banks,” said Sean Sequeira the chief investment officer of Australian Eagle Asset Management.

“The economy’s held up relatively well, so bad debt expenses aren’t hurting earnings and the outlook is somewhat benign. Arrears payments have ticked up a little, particularly in personal loans, but the bulk of repayments are holding up.”

Shares in market heavyweights BHP, Rio Tinto, South32, and Woodside all went ex-dividend and fell in value, keeping a lid on the market’s gains.

Speaking from New York, the founder of Wilson Asset Management Geoff Wilson said investors should prepare for an arduous election campaign after Donald Trump’s Super Tuesday victory in the primaries voting.

“I think 2024 will be ok for shares, over the last 100 years the market tends to be up 7 per cent in an election year, and we still expect interest rates to fall later this year,” he said.

On Wall Street the Nasdaq closed up 0.6 per cent as Nvidia closed at a record high $US887 per share. Bitcoin recovered to trade above $US67,000 and gold hit a high of $US2160.55 an ounce. The Australian dollar climbed to buy US65.7¢.

Oil extended gains to near its highs for the year after a US report showed signs of rising fuel demand heading into the summer driving season, according to Bloomberg.

Licensed by Copyright Agency. You must not copy this work without permission.