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Australia: Shares set for hefty weekly gains


[SYDNEY] Australian shares extended gains on Friday after a spike in risk sentiment put them on track for their second largest weekly increase in four years.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 0.4 per cent to 5,264.1 by 0220 GMT, following a 2.1 per cent rally on Thursday. The benchmark was set to show an increase of 4.1 per cent this week and if sustained it would be the second largest such rise since 2011.

Much of the gains came from financial sector stocks, which amount for more than half of the index.

National Australia Bank and Westpac Bank each gained around 1.2 per cent each, while ANZ Bank and Commonwealth Bank of Australia added around 1 per cent. Overall, the financial sector rose 5 per cent so far this week.

The heavyweight resources sector also extended gains with Newcrest Mining up 1.5 per cent and BHP Billiton 0.9 per cent higher. Dealers said the stocks had been recently oversold.

Department stores operator Myer Holdings and clothes retailer Kathmandu made big inroads after upbeat sales growth. Myer climbed to a two-1/2-month peak to be up 4.8 percent, while Kathmandu powered up 5.7 per cent.

Law firm Slater and Gordon was not so lucky, having tumbled nearly 10 percent after it said past financial reporting errors had undermined confidence in the firm.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent or 11 points to 6,005.98 on Friday.

The biggest gainers were retirement village owner and operator Ryman Healthcare, which rose 2.4 per cent after reporting a rise in its half-year profit and said it is on track for 15 per cent profit growth for the full year. "It's ticking all the boxes," said Christchurch-based Craigs Investment Partners advisor Alexandra Dalzell.

The biggest losers included Tower, which shed 5.5 per cent. Earlier the company said it expects to report a full-year net loss, largely due to claims provisions related to the Canterbury rebuild.