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Australia: Shares strengthen on month-end settlements


[SYDNEY] Australian shares returned to the black on Friday after two days of falls as investors adopted a cautious "buy on dips" strategy with broad-based gains across all sectors as the month came to a close.

Banks led Friday's rally with the S&P/ASX 200 index hitting a three week high, rising to 5,803.0 points in early deals. By 0219 GMT, the benchmark was up 66.8 points or 1.2 per cent to 5,779.9. It fell 0.2 per cent on Thursday.

The index is set to post its best weekly performance since March 20.

However, analysts are pessimistic about the outlook for the index which has fallen for two consecutive months as the mining boom, which powered the Australian economy for a decade, fades.

Market voices on:

The index is set for another monthly dip in May. "I think you've got to take today with a pinch of salt, which is a lot of people closing their books. Come Monday it will be a very different picture," Evan Lucas, Market Strategist IG said.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 2.7 per cent and National Australia Bank up 2 percent. The mining sector rose with BHP Billiton up 0.9 percent while Rio jumped 1.8 percent.

Drug developer Alchemia Ltd slumped 53 per cent to a record low of A$0.035 Despite new housing sales for April hitting a 10 year high, property stocks such as Novion Property and Federation Centres lurked mainly in the red.

Australian businesses investment suffered the largest fall in over six years last quarter.

For more individual stocks activity click on US stocks eased on Thursday as mixed messages about Greece's debt talks kept investors uncertain, as did a sharp drop in Chinese shares after brokers tightened margin rules.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX50 share index rose 47.3 points or 0.8 per cent to 5,825.9, tracking gains in offshore markets while healthcare-related shares rallied after Fisher and Paykel Healthcare posted a record-high profit for the year.

The medical equipment maker climbed 5.4 per cent after it reported a 17 per cent jump in full-year profit and lifted its dividend as its annual performance exceeded its guidance.

Strong earnings at healthcare-related companies continued to boost the sector, with retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare rising 1.9 per cent after it reported an ongoing rise in profit earlier in the month.

Telecommunications retailer Spark rose 1.1 per cent, extending its recover from a one-year low hit earlier in the week.