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Australia shares rise as CSL surges, materials gain; NZ flat

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[BENGALURU] CSL Ltd drove gains in the Australian benchmark on Thursday, surging after it upgraded its annual profit guidance, while materials and financials also added to the uptrend.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 per cent, or 9.946 points, to 5,688.7 by 0154 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.4 per cent in the previous session.

"I think CSL's upgrade is the main driver today, combined with some support from resources stocks," said Bill Keenan, general manager of direct equities research at Lonsec.

CSL Ltd, a global biotech company, jumped by up to 10.8 per cent to its highest in more than four months, and recording its biggest intraday gain in close to 10 years. The company raised its FY17 NPAT forecast in a range of about 18 per cent to 20 per cent at constant currency, from 11 per cent earlier.

Healthcare stocks rose as much as 5.4 per cent to their highest in close to three months, while recording the biggest percentage gain since December 2008.

Local miners rose significantly despite an overnight drop in Chinese iron ore futures, although they were supported by steadying copper prices.

"I don't think gains in basic material stocks today is commodity related. It is probably portfolio rebalancing into resources," Mr Keenan said. "I think they (investors) are just positioning themselves ahead of the earnings season." BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd rose as much as 1.3 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively, while Fortescue Metals Group Ltd rose by up to 2.8 per cent.

The overnight dip in oil prices dragged energy stocks down as much as 0.6 per cent. Gold stocks fell 2.4 per cent to record its biggest intraday drop in more than two weeks as gold prices fell on a strengthening US dollar.

Bega Cheese Ltd was the top performer on the main index rising up to 13.6 per cent after announcing the purchase of most of Mondelez International's Australia and New Zealand grocery and cheese business for A$492 million ($345.05 million).

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat at 7,056.29 at 0154 GMT, with gains in utilities and healthcare offset by declines in industrials and consumer discretionary stocks.

Meridian Energy Ltd was the top gainer on the index while casino operator Skycity Entertainment Group Ltd weighed on the index most.


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