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Australia: Shares cautiously higher, NZ also firmer


[SYDNEY] Australian shares staged a half-hearted rebound on Friday following a rally on Wall Street, and were still on track to end the week lower with many investors put off by the recent volatility in global financial markets and commodity prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose a mere 4.52 points, or 0.09 per cent, to 4,913.90 by 0207 GMT, having been up as much as 1.8 per cent earlier. The benchmark was down 1.5 per cent on the week, extending last week's 5.8 percent drop.

Faring slightly better, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index put on 0.84 per cent, or 51.14 points, to 6,160.43. It was flat on the week, steadying from last week's 2.6 per cent decline.

Sentiment improved somewhat after US stocks posted their best performance in over a month as a rebound in oil prices helped fuel a rally in energy shares. But a lower open in Chinese stocks on Friday quickly dampened the mood.

Much of the market's angst stem from a recent meltdown in Chinese stocks and a sharp depreciation of the yuan. Both events stoked concerns that Beijing was losing its grip on economic policy just as the country looked set to post its slowest growth in 25 years. "Some sense of stability does seem to have been wrestled into the Chinese yuan this week, but the Chinese equity markets have been more immune to muscular shows of state intervention,"said Angus Nicholson, market analyst at IG.

China's CSI300 index fell 0.6 per cent in early trade, following a 2.1 per cent rise on Thursday. The index was still down an eye-watering 14 per cent so far this year.

Reflecting the jittery mood, Australia's oil and gas producers such as Woodside Petroleum pared early gains to be up a mere 0.6 per cent. Woodside shares were up as much as 3.9 per cent earlier.

The big four banks were mixed, while global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto both rose by around 2 per cent.

For more individual stocks activity click on In New Zealand, Spark, SKY TV and Fletcher Building were among the best performers, but Ryman Healthcare fell 0.7 per cent.

Volumes remained tepid as many investors are still on holidays or have been sidelined by recent volatility.