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Australia: Shares hit 2-month high; NZ touches fresh record


[SYDNEY] Australian shares rose again on Wednesday to a two-month high led by positive cues from Wall Street as investors cheered a lift in oil prices overnight.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7 per cent, or 37.76 points to 5,305.10 by 0117 GMT. The benchmark climbed 1.15 per cent in the previous session to touch a 1-month high.

This is the ninth consecutive day of gains for the index, its longest winning streak since late January. It is also on track for its best quarterly performance since the first quarter.

New Zealand joined the party with the NZX 50 index hitting a fresh record high on Wednesday. The benchmark has gained 13 per cent so far this year in contrast to its Australian cousin, down nearly 2 per cent. "Market volatility will remain elevated through 2016 with macro remaining key," Baillieu Holst analyst Mathan Somasundaram said in a morning note. "We continue to see yield trade being the dominant factor driving domestic investors as the central banks and slowing global economy will keep rates low for longer." All sectors except miners rose on Wednesday. Major banks, including Westpac and National Australia Bank, were up more than 1 per cent.

Other top performers include telecom giant Telstra and pharmaceutical company CSL, each adding 2.8 per cent.

Shares of health food and wellness product producers surged as investors seek to lock in exposure to companies with leverage to Chinese demand for Australian foods. Bega Cheese rose 5.4 per cent, health company Select Harvest climbed 2.82 per cent and Australia Dairy Farms surged 75.8 per cent.

Graincorp jumped 2.1 per cent to A$8.63 a share after Deutsche Bank put a price target of A$9.15 on the stock along with a "buy" rating.

Energy stocks such as Beach Energy, Karoon Gas and Liquefied Natural Gas added 2-6.3 per cent.

On the flip side, Slater & Gordon, already the worst performer on the index so far this year, continued its downward spiral, falling 2.3 per cent on Wednesday.

Resources shares were downbeat as well with major miner BHP Billiton slipping 0.94 per cent and Rio Tinto off 0.6 per cent.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.1 per cent or 8 points to 6,300.29.

A2 Milk continued its rally after its upbeat guidance earlier this month, adding 0.4 per cent. The stock is the best performer on the index so far this year, up nearly 300 per cent. The biggest gainer was Metlifecare, up 2.2 per cent.

Sky TV was down 1.7 per cent.