Australia shares rise as financials rebound, New Zealand slips

[BENGALURA] Australian shares edged up on Thursday, even though miners were down, aided by gains for some banks and healthcare stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.2 per cent, or 10.703 points, to 5,916.3 at the close. The benchmark gained 0.1 per cent on Wednesday.

Healthcare stocks rose 0.8 per cent, reaching their highest level since June 30. Hearing solutions provider Cochlear surged 2.2 per cent.

Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said one factor helping healthcare sector was the weak inflation data announced on Wednesday. Core inflation undershot estimates.

All of the Big Four banks were down early in the day, after Australia and New Zealand Banking gave a gloomy revenue growth outlook.

But the other three rebounded, closing up between 0.3 and 0.6 per cent.

ANZ, which was down 3.4 per cent at one point, ended 1.2 per cent off.

"Investors are continuing to position for pretty solid results from Westpac and NAB next week," Mr Spooner said, adding there will be "some improvement in interest margins due to recent mortgage rate pricing and ongoing cost programmes feeding into a solid reporting season for the banks".

Index heavyweights BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group sagged.

Both BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto had their biggest losses in a week as iron ore prices retreated.

Fortescue, the world's fourth-largest producer of iron ore, had its biggest one-day slip in a month despite reporting a modest rise in iron ore shipments for the quarter.

It looks like the broader market was expecting more from Fortescue said Kurt Mayell, Asian equity hedge analyst from CMC Markets Asia Pacific Pty Ltd.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4 per cent or 35.93 points to finish at 8,086.74.

The bourse was weighed down by material stocks, with Fletcher Building leading decliners.


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