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Australia: Shares make hefty weekly gains, NZ stocks hit record high

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares climbed to a two-month peak on Friday after gains in commodity prices underpinned the mining and financial sectors, while New Zealand stocks struck a record high, yet again.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.3 per cent or 16.4 points to 5,098.1 by 01.45 GMT. The benchmark is up 4.5 per cent so far this week and if sustained, it would be the biggest increase in nearly five months.

The next big target is 5,183.63, the 76.4 per cent retracement of the January-February move and could open the way to 5,300.

The gains were led by resource stocks after iron ore climbed above US$51 a tonne to levels last seen in October.

BHP Billiton Ltd put on 2 per cent, with investors brushing aside a two-notch credit ratings cut by Moody's. Rio Tinto added 1 per cent, while Fortescue Metals Group outperformed them both with a jump of 3 per cent.

The better mood in markets globally helped the banks with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Macquarie Group up around 0.8 per cent.

Construction material supplier CSR jumped 3.4 per cent to touch a one-year peak after it announced a A$150 million share buyback.

The medical and property sectors, however, were out of favour with the ASX 200 A-REIT index off 2 per cent and the ASX 200 Healthcare index 1.3 per cent lower.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index hit a record high at 6,423.26 and was poised to show another week of strong gains with a 3.1 per cent increase. It is up 1.5 per cent so far this year.

As of 0240 GMT, the index stood 0.6 per cent, or 39.06 points, higher at 6,419.92 as investors were cheered by a better night on Wall Street.

The biggest gainers included Restaurant Brands, up 8.6 per cent after the company entered a conditional agreement to buy QSR Pty Ltd, an Australian company which owns and operates 42 KFC stores in New South Wales, Australia. Retailer Kathmandu was trading up 1.9 per cent.

The biggest losers included Orion Health Group, down 3.2 per cent and Skellerup, down 0.8 per cent.


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