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Australia shares edge up as Metcash jumps; NZ steady


[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged up on Monday with the consumer staples sector climbing after Metcash Ltd reported a rise in underlying annual profit, but financial stocks struggled to remain positive amid continuing concerns over bank taxes.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 per cent or 10.13 points to 5,726.00 by 0327 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.2 per cent higher on Friday.

Consumer non-cyclicals gained the most with Metcash Ltd jumping as much as 9.1 per cent to its highest in nearly three months.

Metcash posted its biggest intraday per centage gain in 10 months after reporting a 9.3 per cent rise in underlying annual profit and announcing plans to resume dividend payments.

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Retailers Woolworths Ltd and Wesfarmers Ltd were among the top gainers rising 1.2 per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively.

In other stocks, miners were on track to record a third session of gains on the back of oil and gold prices which rose on Friday helped by a weaker US dollar.

South32 Ltd climbed 1.4 per cent while Rio Tinto Ltd added 0.9 per cent.

The financial sector drifted as concerns over the federal government's proposed bank levy and some states'interest in adding levies of their own persisted.

Australia's decision to impose a A$6.2 billion tax on the five biggest banks has created uncertainty among global investors who no longer see the country as a stable investment destination, according to the chief executive of National Australia Bank.

National Australia Bank Ltd and Westpac Banking Corp shed 0.3 per cent and 0.2 per cent while Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd gained marginally.

A second Australian state on Friday said it was open to charging its own bank tax.

Insurer QBE was the biggest loser on the benchmark after it shed 2.5 per cent to its lowest in over six months, while retirement community developer/operator Aveo Group slumped to its lowest in nearly two years.

Aveo fell as much as 10.5 per cent after media reports of alleged customer exploitation.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index climbed 0.5 per cent or 35.14 points to 7,588.78.

Telecommunications stocks led the gains on the index with Spark New Zealand Ltd rising 2.1 per cent.

Consumer discretionary was in the red after SKY Network Television Ltd fell as much as 5 per cent to its lowest in over eight years.

The pay television provider terminated a sales agreement to buy Vodafone's local unit.