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Australia: Shares lifted by energy and miners; NZ slips


[BENGALURU] Australian shares finished firmer on Friday, helped by energy and mining stock gains but worries about the financial sector weighed after Goldman Sachs cut its target price on Westpac, which faces an explosive lawsuit over financial breaches.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.6 per cent higher at 6,709.80, while marking its biggest weekly loss in almost two months. The benchmark fell 0.7 per cent on Thursday.

"Today's bounce back looks like a recapturing of ground," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, following the losses of the past two sessions.

Mining stocks ended 1 per cent higher as prices of iron ore rose on the back of strong demand for steel.

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This helped major players Fortescue Metals Group and BHP Group close up 3.9 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively. The sub-index flagged its second consecutive week of losses.

Energy stocks firmed 1.3 per cent but posted their biggest weekly loss in almost two months.

Index heavyweight Santos closed 1.3 per cent higher in its best session in two weeks, while Woodside Petroleum had its best day since Nov. 11, rising 1.2 per cent.

Software firm WiseTech Global climbed 3 per cent, while peer Altium Ltd gained 2.4 per cent to help the tech index close 1.5 per cent higher. The sector ended the week 1 per cent lower.

Meanwhile, financials ended marginally lower, dragged by Westpac Banking Corp, Australia's second-largest lender, which fell 1.6 per cent, after Goldman Sachs became the first major investment bank to cut its target price on the bank.

Regulators have accused Westpac of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering laws. Westpac on Friday held an emergency meeting to discuss the allegations and apologised for the breaches. The bank did not announce any changes in management, although Prime Minister Scott Morrison had eaerlier called on its board to reflect on Chief executive Brian Hartzer's position.

Gold stocks ended almost 1 per cent lower, pressured by declines in shares of OceanaGold Corp, which closed down 8 per cent at their lowest level in nearly four years.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.1 per cent or 11.86 points to finish the session at 10,946.30. The benchmark, however, marked its third straight week of gains.

Software developer Gentrack Group closed 12.6 per cent down at a more than one-year low, while dairy company Synlait Milk ended 3.8 per cent down at a week's low, both top losers on the day.