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Australia: Shares set for sharp weekly decline as recession fears grow


[BENGALURU] Australian shares were little changed on Friday as recession fears offset the boost from financial stocks with the benchmark on track to post its third straight week of declines.

Investor caution has prevailed after a torrid week for markets, marked by an escalation in Sino-US trade tensions and the worrying inversion of the US bond yield curve, which is seen as a sign of looming recession.

The S&P/ASX 200 index inched up 0.1 per cent, or 8 points, to 6,416 by 1.45am GMT (9.45am SGT). It is, however, set for its third week of losses, having shed almost 400 points over this period.

Financials, which make up the heaviest weightage on the benchmark, helped drive gains. Three of the country's "Big Four" banks - Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank - advanced 0.4 per cent to 0.7 per cent.

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Australia and New Zealand Banking Group wavered between positive and negative territory. The No 4 lender reported a rise in impaired assets in the third quarter but said loan applications rose as it eased lending norms.

Consumer-focused companies such as Woolworths and Wesfarmers gained 1.3 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.

Australian miners, which tend to be hit hard by trade uncertainty, were mixed on Friday.

The mining sub-index slipped 0.3 per cent, with heavyweights BHP Group and Rio Tinto both weaker.

Meanwhile, safehaven gold stocks clawed back Thursday's gain with the gold index off 1.1 per cent.

Newcrest Mining fell 0.8 per cent. It had earlier reported a rise in annual profit on the back of robust output.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was set for its first weekly loss since the first week of June. It fell 0.4 per cent on Friday to 10,666.51.

Infratil and a2 Milk fell 1.5 per cent and 1 per cent, respectively.