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Australian shares end higher on financials, materials; NZ falls


[BENGALURU] Australian shares rallied on Monday, with financials accounting for most of the gains, while materials rose on the back of firmer commodities prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.3 per cent or 17.20 points at 5,886.0. The benchmark declined 0.2 per cent on Friday.

Financial stocks rose 0.7 per cent, brushing aside concerns that Australia's competition watchdog wants to increase penalties imposed on the "Big Four" major banks to "hundreds of millions".

The proposed heavy fines may be enforced and followed by job cuts, but the wider industry would survive, this would encourage"bottom fishers" to buy high-dividend stocks when their share prices are very low, said Dale Raynes, Associate Director at CPS Capital.

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Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia jumped 0.9 per cent, while others in the "Big Four" firmed between 0.9-1.4 per cent.

Materials stocks, espcially miners, supplemented the gains. The Australian metals and mining index climbed 0.9 per cent to a more than three-month high, helped by firmer prices for iron ore.

Global miner BHP strengthened 1.2 per cent to its highest since Feb 20, while its rival Rio Tinto Ltd rose 1.4 per cent.

Australia's biggest gold miner, Newcrest Mining, jumped 2.8 per cent to a six-week high, having gained approval to to use the first 200 metres of its Cadia Hill mine's open pit as a tailings storage facility. The flagship mine restarted processing earlier this month.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index declined 0.2 per cent or 19.6 points to finish the session at 8,303.62.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd accounted for most of the losses, falling 3.1 per cent, its biggest per centage drop in nearly three weeks.