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S&P/ASX 200 - market closes on a high; trade dominates

The day's proceedings were dominated (once again) by trade in one form or other
picture of Australia and chart
The departure of Gary Cohn prompted a sharp fall in US markets as the Dow closed at 24,801 points

The S&P/ASX 200 ended the session in positive territory but off its session high on a day dominated by foreign trade as the index ended up 35.10 at 5,937.10.

Foremost still in minds of market participants was the looming trade war potentially being initiated by Donald Trump via his tariff program.

There was some relief as the White House appeared to suggest that some nations may be exempt from surcharges. 

Aussie extractors and exporters of raw materials will be hoping that Trump delivers on a previous pledge to keep the country out of what is essentially a war on the makers of cheap and state-subsidised steel and aluminium.

Australia appears to be performing well on the world stage. The trade surplus was $1.1 billion in January compared with a consensus figure of $160 million, with exports up 4% and imports down 2%.

China's exports, meanwhile, surged at their fastest pace in three years in February, suggesting its economic growth remains resilient even as trade relations with the United States rapidly deteriorate. 

They rose just under 45% against forecasts of a far more pedestrian 13.6% and against an 11% gain in January.

Turning to the stock market, financial stocks were in demand, while miners were still unsettled by the Trump tariff plans.

Among the (smaller) growth stocks, Immuron Limited’s (ASX:IMC) shares surged almost 60% after its lead drug for liver inflammation performed well in a phase II clinical trial.

Not far behind with a gain of 40% was Blackham Resources Limited (ASX:BLK).

The shares surged after a record month for its Matilda-Wiluna gold operation - one in which output increased and costs were significantly reduced, resulting in strong cash flows.

12:30pm: Dollar up on trade figures

The Aussie dollar received a boost after better than expected trade figures.

The trade surplus was $1.1 billion in January compared with a consensus figure of $160 million, with exports up 4% and imports down 2%.

The Australian dollar was up 1 cent at midday to 78.26 cents against its American counterpart.

S&P/ASX 200 was up 28 points at 5,930.1 as worries about US trade tariffs abated a little.

10:30am: Market opens in positive territory

The S&P/ASX 200 opened the session in positive territory with the banks rebounding as the prospect of an all out trade war abated.

The index advanced just under 30 points to 5,931.80. On Wall Street, the share markets ended down, but well off their session lows amid reports America might possibly agree special dispensations from its tariff plans.

The Australian authorities, which thought they had such an exemption, will be hoping they receive a so-called ‘carve-out’.

Even so there was a degree of nervousness around the miners with BHP, South32 and Newcrest on offer early on.

Preview: Positive start expected 

The S&P/ASX 200 (ASX:XJO) is expected to defy negative sentiment in the US to open stronger on Thursday morning.

The SPI Futures contract is indicating the index will open 24 points higher at 5,921 points.

Cohn's departure rocks US markets

The resignation of President Trump’s top economic adviser and supporter of tax reforms, Gary Cohn, has been seen as a negative development.

It Is also pertinent that he was opposed to the Trump’s decision to introduce trade tariffs.

The NASDAQ (INDEXNASDAQ:IXIC) rose 0.3% to 7396 points as IT stocks tended to buck the trend.

Dow Jones (INDEXDJX:DJI) closed 0.3% lower at 24,801 points, dragged down by political ructions US.

Oil fell 2%, closing at US$61.39 per barrel.

All base metals lost ground, but copper was fairly resilient.

Trade data under the microscope

On a day in which there is very little economic news on the horizon, the release of trade figures for both Australia and China is likely to be front and centre.

The Australian dollar was flat, fetching US$0.78.

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