Australia: Shares open higher as US stimulus talks progress

[BENGALURU] Australian shares opened higher on Friday, lifted mostly by energy and gold stocks, after US President Donald Trump revived hopes of a deal with Congress to expedite further relief for the coronavirus-ravaged economy.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.14 per cent at 6,102 points as at 2350 GMT.

Overnight, all three major US indices closed higher after Mr Trump, in an interview with Fox News, said talks with Congress had restarted on further Covid-19 relief, two days after he called off negotiations on a comprehensive bill.

Though mixed messages about stimulus will likely continue to trigger choppy markets, said analysts.

Back home, Australia's most populous state of New South Wales on Thursday reported its biggest one-day rise in infections in more than a month.

Among stocks and sectors, the energy sector soared as much as 1.5 per cent, as oil prices jumped on output shutdowns ahead of a storm in the US Gulf of Mexico, and the possibility of supply cuts from Saudi Arabia and Norway.

Oil and gas explorers Santos and Oil Search rose 2.1 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively.

Gold stocks climbed about 2 per cent, alongside a rise in the prices of the underlying commodity, helped by uncertainty about the US presidential election and bets that fresh stimulus would drive inflation.

The country's top gold producer Newcrest Mining rose as much as 1.2 per cent after its board approved the second-stage expansion of its flagship Cadia gold mine and the Lihir mine's front-end recovery project.

On the other hand, utilities fell about 0.8 per cent, with the country's top power producer AGL Energy losing 0.7 per cent.

Healthcare stocks also declined, with medical devices maker Resmed Inc down 0.8 per cent.

Engineering contractor CIMIC Group was among the top gainers in the index, after reporting that transaction with a new equity investor for its mining services business, Thiess, is "well-progressed".

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 per cent to 12,267.9, helped by financial and healthcare stocks.


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