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Australia: Shares end up as big banks gain

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[SYDNEY] Australia's shares ended modestly higher on Tuesday, helped by gains in the Big Four banks, which rose after the government delayed the date of payment of bank tax and excluded some liabilities from the levy.

The S&P/ASX 200 index finished up 0.2 per cent at 5,717.90. On Monday, the benchmark dropped 0.8 per cent.

The government delayed the date of the first payment of its US$4.61 billion bank tax by three months.

The legislation did not include any sunset clause, as sought by the banks.

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The 'Big 4' Australian banks gained as a result in a range of about 1 per cent to 1.5 per cent.

Macquarie Group was about 0.8 per cent up.

Earlier housing data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed April building approvals rose 4.4 per cent from the prior month but declined 17.2 per cent from a year earlier.

The data came on the back of regulators' attempts to cool an overheated housing market by imposing limits on mortgage lending by big banks, denting their outlook.

Miners recovered from a rout on Monday after tensions over a potential iron-ore tax on mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP by the Western Australia state government eased.

Rio Tinto and BHP shares were up about 1 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.79 points lower at 7,411.95 as losses in energy stocks offset gains in cosumer driven stocks.

Z Energy was the benchmark's biggest loser by weight, down 1.6 per cent.