The Business Times

Australia: Shares give up gains as Afterpay, big banks drop

Published Thu, Mar 11, 2021 · 02:44 PM

[BENGALURU] Australian shares surrendered early gains to close flat on Thursday, as a rally in tourism stocks that was fuelled by a new support package for the battered sector countered losses in big banks and buy-now-pay-later giant Afterpay.

The S&P/ASX 200 index settled at 6,713.90 after rising as much as 0.6 per cent earlier in the day, repeating a trend that saw early momentum fizzling by midday so far this week.

"The pace of sell-offs in the bond market has caught the equity market off guard. Bond yields are stabilising now but it's still keeping markets somewhat on edge, particularly after a strong run in recent months," said Steven Daghlian, a market analyst at CommSec.

"Overall, markets are doing okay, if you take a step back from the noise," he said, noting that the ASX200 index was about 7 per cent away from the all-time high scaled in February last year.

Expectations of a swift economic recovery and higher inflation have led to a global bond rout, although yields have stabilised recently after central banks stepped in to quell talks about possible early interest rate hikes.

Tourism stocks gained the most in Australia after the government unveiled a A$1.2 billion (S$1.25 billion) tourism support package aimed at boosting local travel.


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Flight Centre Travel Group was the top gainer, adding 9.2 per cent to close at its highest since March 11, 2020.

Corporate Travel Management rose 4.3 per cent, while travel bookings company Webjet climbed 3.8 per cent.

Casino and gaming company Aristocrat Leisure, Qantas Airways and Sydney Airport Holdings all clocked gains of more than 2 per cent.

Losses among heavyweight stocks, however, weighed on the index. Afterpay slumped nearly 4 per cent after Wednesday's 7.5 per cent jump, while the "Big Four" banks also ended lower.

New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent to end at 12,272.48. Meridian Energy was the top gainer with a 3.5 per cent rise.


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