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Australia: Shares set to post first weekly gain in four

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Australian shares are set to post their first weekly gain in four on Friday, as strength in heavyweight financial stocks and significant gains in real estate firms pushed the benchmark higher.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares are set to post their first weekly gain in four on Friday, as strength in heavyweight financial stocks and significant gains in real estate firms pushed the benchmark higher.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 per cent to 6,522.70 by 0214 GMT, adding to Thursday's 0.3 per cent gain. The benchmark is poised to gain about 1.8 per cent for the week.

Markets have failed to accelerate in recent times due to fears of an impending global recession and the festering Sino-US trade spat.

However, those worries largely took a back seat in Australia this week, thanks to a recovery in investor sentiment over stimulus measures in China and strong corporate earnings at home.

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Most property stocks gained with the sector index tacking on more than 2 per cent.

Goodman Group advanced about 6 per cent to be among the top percentage gainers on the benchmark after the firm reported a more than a 48 per cent jump in annual profit.

Underpinning positive sentiment in the real estate sector, Dexus, Charter Hall Group and Mirvac Group gained as much as between 1.5 per cent and 2.3 per cent.

"The softening of interest rates in Australia has been the focus in the results commentary of most of the property groups," said James McGlew, executive director of stock broking at Argonaut.

Mr McGlew added that the residential market is now receiving a lot of attention from the government, which wants to stimulate new growth in the segment.

Heavyweight Financials also gained in volatile early trade, rising as much as 0.4 per cent, with the top three lenders of the "Big Four" gaining between 0.3 per cent and 0.5 per cent.

The overall gains, however, were capped by mining sector declines, with gold stocks off for a sixth straight session.

Gold explorer Gold Road Resources slumped as much as 22.5 per cent, its most in more than nine years, after its unit sold stake at a discounted price.

Gold Road was also the top percentage loser in the Metals and Mining index, down 0.4 per cent.

Major gold firms Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining both dropped 0.4 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.

Miner South32 extended losses, slipping more than 5 per cent. The company on Thursday reported a 25 per cent drop in annual underlying profit.

The energy sector, which has largely propelled the benchmark's weekly gains, inched lower on the day.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell about 1 per cent to 10,638.87, with dairy firm a2 Milk leading the losses with an about 5 per cent decline.

REUTERS