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Australia: Shares supported by healthcare, financials; New Zealand down


[BENGALURU] Australian shares inched higher on Friday, supported by financials and healthcare firms though worries about the European Union slapping retaliatory tariffs on US goods and weaker commodity prices kept overall sentiment in check.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 per cent to 6,275.7 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.3 per cent on Thursday.

"We are seeing our banks being bought as a safety trade coming out of global Asian markets and that's a dominating factor that's supporting our market at this point," said Mathan Somasundaram, a Blue Ocean Equities market portfolio strategist.

With Officials from the EU Trade Commission, due to arrive in Washington next week for trade talks and the European Union readying their own set of tit-for-tat tariffs on U.S. imports, a level of caution reigned over regional markets.

Financial stocks, the benchmark's top constituents, pulled its weight with the country's 'Big Four' banks leading the way.

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The main financial index rose 0.3 per cent, with Westpac Banking the biggest boost with a 0.6 per cent gain.

The Australian market has been fairly resilient in the face of intensifying global trade tensions, set to close the week slightly higher and on course for a fourth month of gains.

Healthcare stocks, which rely heavily on exports to the United States and benefits from weakness in the Australian dollar, were the biggest boost to the benchmark.

Index heavyweight CSL rose 1.4 per cent. The Aussie dollar was weaker on Friday, after rising on strong jobs data the day before.

In the material space, commodity prices fell overnight on fund selling amid concerns of the spillover effect on demand from the trade dispute between the United States and China.

The mining index fell 1.6 per cent, as global miner BHP declined 2 per cent.

Bauxite miner Alumina Ltd tumbled nearly 6 per cent to an over four-week low as aluminium traded over a percent lower on the London Metal Exchange on Thursday.

Gold stocks extended their declines as the yellow metal sank to a one-year low, as a stronger dollar and rising US interest rates pull investors away from the traditional safe-heaven.

The gold index fell 0.6 per cent on Friday, down close to 6 per cent for the week, with Newcrest Mining the biggest drag with a 0.5 per cent loss.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 0.3 per cent to 8,895.49.

a2 Milk Company, which has fallen all week, and the embattled Fletcher Building weighed on the index, down 1.5 per cent and 1.9 per cent, respectively. 


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