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Australia: Shares cautiously higher as banks find some reprieve


[SYDNEY] Australian shares edged higher on Tuesday as a tentative rebound in banks helped offset a negative lead from Wall Street.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 per cent, or 10.8 points, to 5,509.3 in early afternoon trade, pulling away from a four-month trough of 5,470.0 plumbed on Friday. The market was closed on Monday for a public holiday.

Last week, the benchmark index slid nearly 5 per cent, suffering its biggest weekly drop since May 2012.

Shares in the big four local banks were mostly in the black. Westpac Banking Corp. climbed 1.1 per cent, while Commonwealth Bank put on 0.5 per cent. "We're probably seeing a bit of a dead cat bounce in these banks today because the trend is still down," said Chris Weston, strategist at IG. "There may be a few brave souls looking to dip back in but the volumes are not particularly exciting. You're probably seeing some short covering from the offshore players as well." Investors have been selling bank stocks in recent weeks due in part to worries about their outlooks. Shares in the big four banks have erased all of this year's gains, with most of them turning around from record peaks just a few months ago.

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While the financial sector was enjoying a rare reprieve, Nine Entertainment was feeling the heat after giving a profit warning.

Shares in the television broadcaster slid to a record low of A$1.555 and were last down 15 per cent on the day.

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New Zealand's benchmark NZX50 index eased 0.5 per cent, or 27.1 points, to 5,858.7, weighed by losses in healthcare and telecommunications sectors.

Fisher and Paykel Healthcare shed 0.9 per cent as investors booked profits in the healthcare appliance maker's rally to a lifetime high of NZ$7.10, after it posted strong results late last month.

Telecom retailer Spark fell 1.2 per cent, while telecoms wholesaler Chorus slipped 0.5 per cent.

Bucking the weaker trend, Contact Energy rose 0.9 per cent, recovering from the previous day's losses on speculation that Origin Energy may keep its stake in the energy retailer even as the Australian company struggles to bolster its balance sheet.


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