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Australia: Healthcare, trade hopes pull stocks higher, New Zealand rises

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Australian stocks tracked regional gains on Monday on optimism about US-China trade talks progress, while domestic focus centred on healthcare after a reported broker upgrade on heavyweight CSL lifted the broader sector to record highs.

[BENGALURU] Australian stocks tracked regional gains on Monday on optimism about US-China trade talks progress, while domestic focus centred on healthcare after a reported broker upgrade on heavyweight CSL lifted the broader sector to record highs.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 per cent to 6,751.3 by 0030 GMT. The benchmark ended marginally lower on Friday.

Wall Street's major indexes posted record closing highs on Friday, as investors largely brushed aside worries about US-China negotiations.

"At the moment, markets want to believe in Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny," Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut, said.

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Mr Trump said on Saturday that trade talks with China were moving along "very nicely" but the United States would only make a deal with Beijing if it was the right one for the United States.

"My issue is that I'd love to see real detail on what these talks are, before I rush to buy things," Mr Rooney added.

In Australia, healthcare stocks surged as much as 2.1 per cent, and were the biggest boost to the benchmark index.

Shares of CSL, one of the largest firms by market valuation, soared 2.2 per cent to a record-high after UBS upgraded the drugmkaer to "buy", local media reported, while local shares of Resmed Inc advanced 1.7 per cent.

Financial stocks, the benchmark's largest component, were on track for a third straight day of gains. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which is due to report first-quarter results on Tuesday, advanced 0.9 per cent while National Australia Bank strengthened 1.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, shares of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group slipped as much as 3.1 per cent to a seven-month low, after the country's fourth-largest lender traded ex-dividend.

Bucking the trend, the metals and mining index dropped 0.7 per cent, as iron ore futures touched a three-week low on Friday on prospects of tepid steel demand.

Global miner Rio Tinto fell 1.7 per cent, while Fortescue Metals Group, the world's fourth largest iron ore miner, shed 3.7 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent or 25.8 points to 10,902.78.

Sky Network Television rose 3.3 per cent as the company secured broadcasting rights for 2022 and 2026 Commonwealth Games, while Ryman Healthcare gained 2.2 per cent.

REUTERS