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Australia: Shares bounce on banks, energy


[SYDNEY] Australian shares shrugged off rising geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and a sluggish Wall Street to bounce 0.8 per cent on Friday led by buying in large-cap stocks with financials, energy and consumer staples sectors gaining the most.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 47.8 points or 0.8 per cent to 5,926.9 by 0054 GMT. The benchmark posted its biggest fall in 3-1/2 months on Thursday, falling 1.6 per cent.

Many investors were buying for the new quarter with the settlement of shares bought on Friday only kicking in by April 1.

Industrial profits data from China could spur activity in commodities later in the day but the market is likely to be quiet next week heading into Easter and the Reserve Bank of Australia policy meeting on April 7, said Tristan K'Nell, head of trading at Quay Equities.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia and ANZ were up 0.7 per cent while retailers Woolworths and Wesfarmers, which runs the Coles supermarkets, were both up more than 1 per cent.

Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search were up 1.1 to 4.3 per cent after oil jumped 5 per cent on Thursday.

Despite Friday's gains, the index is still seen in losses for the week, after two unsuccessful attempts to break the 6,000-mark this month. Analysts expect strong bank earnings in May or an RBA rate cut before June to help push the index to levels not seen since before the global financial crisis.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX50 index was marginally firmer, rising 0.1 per cent to 5,838.78, as selective buying of leading and small-cap stocks lifted the market for the first time in three days.

Fletcher Building was 0.6 per cent higher, while Spark rose marginally, after hitting a three month low on Thursday.

Clothing retailer Hallenstein Glasson rose 4.6 per cent to a five week-high after it delivered a strong rise in first half profit, a higher dividend, and a promising full year outlook.

Fellow retailer Kathmandu remained under pressure after reporting losses and a weak outlook on Tuesday. The stock has fallen more than 15 per cent since the result.

Several small-scale technology stocks were also firmer, including ikeGPS up 9.6 per cent to NZ$0.80 (S$0.83) as it reported rising sales, and biomedical company Pacific Edge up 4.2 per cent to NZ$0.70.

A handful of stocks going ex-dividend also weighed on the market.


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