Aust share market breaks losing streak

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The Australian share market has broken a three-day losing streak as some buyers returned to the market despite negative overseas leads, however volumes were muted with no strong theme directing trading.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished the day up 26.7 points, or 0.47 per cent, at 5,682.1 points, after bottoming out on Thursday to levels not seen since February.

Gains among financial, energy, healthcare telcos and utilities stocks offset loses in the materials, industrials and gold sectors.

CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy said the local bourse had been contrarian for much of the week.

“It’s a bit surprising the Australian market performance today, particularly given the pressure that we’ve seen on the broader index over the course of this week,” Mr McCarthy said.

“For most of this week we’ve shrugged off positive leads and we’ve under-performed the region, and that selling has not returned today – in fact, if anything, it appears to have turned to buying.”

But Mr McCarthy said trading volumes were light, which did not inspire confidence.

“There doesn’t appear to be a coherent investment theme,” he said.

The Australian dollar remained below 80 US cents in the wake of lower iron ore prices, speculation of a looming US interest rate hike, and less hawkish comments from Reserve Bank of Australia governor Phillip Lowe on Thursday.

At 1630 AEST the Aussie was at 79.39 US cents, from 79.59 US cents on Thursday.

The refocus on potential rate hikes coincided with a turnaround for the big four banks.

ANZ lifted 0.6 per cent to $29.94, Westpac gained 1.2 per cent to $31.64, and National Australia Bank improved 0.9 per cent to $31.28.

Commonwealth Bank rose 0.7 per cent to $76.62.

Commonwealth Bank could launch a share buyback in the next financial year to redistribute capital raised by the sale of its life insurance and global asset management businesses, according to a report released by UBS analysts.

In the resources sector, Rio Tinto ascended 0.7 per cent to $65.97.

Rio Tinto announced it will return proceeds from the recent $US2.7 billion sale of its NSW coal operations to shareholders through a share buyback.

Global miner BHP Billiton eased 0.2 per cent to $25.95 as ratings agency Fitch has warned that BHP Billiton’s plan to divest shale gas assets combined with any increased level of shareholder payouts could impact its credit profile.

Iron ore play Fortescue Metals descended one per cent to $5.12, after the price of iron ore dropped $US3.50 to $US64.75 a tonne.

Among other stocks, regional broadcaster Prime Media plunged 5.5 cents, or 11.6 per cent, to 42 cents, and Seven West Media advanced 1.5 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to 72.5 cents.

Talks between Seven West and Prime over combining their assets into a single media company have ended with the two unable to come to an agreement, the companies said on Friday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 closed up 26.7 points, or 0.47 per cent, at 5,682.1 points.

* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 23.9 points, or 0.42 per cent, at 5,740.6 points.

* The SPI200 futures contract was up 29 points, or 0.51 per cent, at 5,671 points.

* National turnover was 2.5 billion securities traded worth $4.9 billion.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEST:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 79.46 US cents, from 79.59 on Thursday

* 88.907 Japanese yen, from 89.66 yen

* 66.39 euro cents, from 66.91 euro cents

* 58.55 British pence, from 58.92 pence

* 108.83 NZ cents, from 108.92 cents

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEST was $US1,297.67 per fine ounce, from $US1,294.27 per fine ounce on Thursday.

BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEST:

* CGS 4.50 per cent April 2020, 2.0468pct, from 2.0656pct

* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.7429pct, from 2.7752pct

Sydney Futures Exchange prices:

* December 2017 10-year bond futures contract at 97.175 (implying a yield of 2.825pct), from 97.135 (implying a yield of 2.865pct) on Thursday

* December 2017 3-year bond futures contract at 97.8 (2.19pct), from 97.78 (2.22pct).

(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEST previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEST previous local session)