There were losses for the major mining firms after iron ore and gold prices slipped, while a red-hot energy sector also cooled off following a dip for oil.
US markets offered little direction at the open of trade as Donald Trump’s impeachment trial played out.
As it transpired, a number of Trump’s own Republican Party members voted against him as he became the first President in history to be impeached for a second time.
With little else happening on the corporate front, investor attention remained firmly in the US as President-elect Joe Biden announced he would be detailing his COVID spending plan on Thursday evening or Friday morning AEDT.
Trillions in new spending is expected to be unveiled, including heftier direct stimulus payments to Americans.
EY partner and investment banking veteran Duncan Hogg said the market had been anticipating Biden’s announcement ever since his party swept the Georgia senate runoff last week
“We then move into Biden’s inauguration and Trump will have to step aside, and hopefully we’ll see a bit more clarity as to whether the market will continue on its upward trend,” Mr Hogg said.
Growth stocks were strong on Thursday.
The tech sector added a collective 4.7 per cent. Joining Afterpay in the black was the remainder of the so-called WAAAX contingent – Wisetech Global, Altium, Appen, and Xero – while Megaport, NEXTDC and Bravura Solutions also gained.
Health stocks were also strong, even with biotech giant CSL finishing flat.
Pro Medicus was the market’s best performer on Thursday with a 15 per cent gain to $36.53 after it secured a $40 million deal with US firm Intermountain to roll out its imaging platform at 24 hospitals and 200 clinics.
Cochlear, Mesoblast, and Polynovo each rose more than 3 per cent.
Mr Hogg said for all the talk of a rotation in 2021 growth stocks would likely continue to shine in the short-term.
“As we move further into 2021 the expectation is there will be more of the market moving towards value stocks as we see this additional cash and low interest rates playing through,” Mr Hogg said.
“That will drive up the value stocks as well, which are less volatile and will provide both a return and a better risk profile for investors.
“So I do see the transition happening this year from growth to value, but in the near term it is still very much growth-focused”.