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Australia: Shares rise at the end of trading


[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended higher on Thursday after a rise in healthcare and utility stocks outweighed declines in commodity-driven and consumer stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 per cent to 5,738.10.

Healthcare and utilities stocks posted solid gains, tracking the performance of their US peers.

The biggest Australian healthcare firms, CSL Ltd and Resmed Inc, added 1.6 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively. Both have substantial US operations.

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AGL Energy and APA Group led utilities, posting gains of 2.4 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively.

Miners Rio Tinto and BHP, which fell 1.7 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively, contributed to much of the benchmark's losses.

But Thursday's biggest blow came from retailing major Wesfarmers, which plunged 3.1 per cent to its lowest since early-February. It fell after a Morgan Stanley downgrade.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.4 per cent, or 32 points, higher at 7450.90.

Telcos and industrials drove up the benchmark, with Spark New Zealand and Air New Zealand up nearly 2 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively.