Australia: Shares buoyed by banks, healthcare; miners unloved

[SYDNEY] Australian shares rose 0.8 per cent on Thursday following two sessions of losses with financial and healthcare stocks leading gains.

The S&P/ASX 200 index jumped 40.119 points to 5,233.8 by 02:20 GMT. It dipped 0.6 per cent on Wednesday. "Buyers thought it was time to strike today to pick up some of these banks and high-yielding defensive names," said Ben Le Brun, market analyst at OptionsXpress.

Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia each rose around 1.7 per cent, while National Australia Bank added 1.1 per cent and ANZ Banking Group 0.8 per cent.

The healthcare sector was also in demand with Sigma Pharmaceuticals up 2.0 per cent to touch its highest price since August. Blood-products maker CSL was another outperformer with a jump of 1.4 per cent and pulling closer to a record high touched in August.

Orica Ltd, the world's largest maker of mine explosives, rose 3 per cent, slowly recovering after the company announced a drop in earnings earlier this month.

Another slide in the price of iron ore, Australia's top export earner, weighed on mining shares. The mineral fell to its lowest based on The Steel Index which began its records in 2008.

BHP Billiton dropped 0.6 per cent, while Rio Tinto eased 0.4 per cent.

Lawfirm Slater and Gordon was another casualty, slumping as much as 54 per cent to a record low after the British government unexpectedly announced proposed changes to laws that would restrict the rights of people injured in road accidents to obtain compensation for pain and suffering.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index edged up 0.2 per cent or 13.29 points to 6,082.43, pulling closer to a record peak of 6,108.35 touched this week.

The biggest gainers were Heartland, which was up 2.3 per cent and the Warehouse, up 1.2 per cent. Profit taking continued A2 Milk, down 3.6 per cent while Xero shed 1.8 per cent.


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