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Australian shares end higher, healthcare stocks at record; NZ closed

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed higher on Monday, led by gains in financial and materials stocks after the country's biggest bank agreed to pay a record-high fine for money laundering breaches, while a rally in commodity prices drove up miners.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 per cent or 35.100 points to 6025.500.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia finished the day 1.7 per cent higher on relief that its A$700 million fine (S$714.3 million) was not more punitive.

CBA shares were up 2 per cent during the day in a slightly positive market. The fine was by far the biggest in Australian corporate history and almost double the A$375 million CBA had put aside.

The financial index held its gains through the day, rising as much as 1.4 per cent before settling to close 0.6 per cent up.

"The banking Royal Commission has put pressure on the whole sector so we're seeing something of a relief rally today," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, referring to a quasi-judicial enquiry into financial misconduct.

An overnight rally in base metal prices drove the Australian mining index to close nearly 1 per cent higher.

Global mining heavyweights Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton gained 0.7 per cent and 0.4 per cent respectively.

The Australian healthcare index extended gains from last Friday, closing 0.5 per cent up at a record high.

Mayne Pharma Group Ltd came close to rising nearly 8 per cent, its highest in nine months and was the biggest gainer on the benchmark index. Pharma heavyweight CSL Ltd rose 1.5 per cent to a record high while Cochlear Ltd rose 0.6 per cent.

The New Zealand market was closed on Monday for a local holiday.


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