Australia shares rise on upbeat comments from central bank governor
(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move) SYDNEY, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares advanced 1.3 percent on Friday, led by the financials sector as upbeat comments from the country's central bank governor offset concerns about the U.S. and euro zone economies. In a parliament hearing on Friday, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Glenn Stevens, said that Australia's inflation outlook provided scope to ease further if needed and that the economy would have a seamless transition from the mining boom peak. "In short we all believe that Glen Stevens will balance out when push comes to shove," said Damien Boey, equity strategist at Credit Suisse. "That's what's driving the market and that's basically what he revealed today." Financials underpinned the market, with top lender the Commonwealth Bank of Australia notching the biggest gain in the sector, up 2.1 percent. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index had climbed 68.1 points to 5,048.2 by 0018 GMT. The index fell 2.3 percent on Thursday, its biggest one-day percentage fall since May on worries the U.S. Federal Reserve could stop or cut its monetary stimulus programme. Global sentiment remained fragile as U.S. and euro zone data painted a gloomy economic picture. In the United States weekly jobless claims and factory activity underscored the need for the Fed's monetary stimulus, while unexpectedly weak business activity indexes in Europe dampened hopes for the euro zone to soon emerge from recession. The Australian market has risen around 8.5 percent this year on receding euro zone and U.S. debt concerns, and on a relatively strong earnings season. In the short run, however, the benchmark index may struggle to stay above the 5,000 level as global markets remain on an unsure footing. "I think it's going to be very tricky," said Boey. "In America they're kind of revealing that actually the next thing we need to do is start tightening, and that's why global stocks are very volatile at the moment and we're going to be caught up in that." Global iron ore miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Ltd lost 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent respectively. Defensives supported the index. Food retailer Woolworths Ltd jumped 1.5 percent while rival Coles-owner Wesfarmers Ltd climbed 1 percent. Telecommunications giant Telstra Corp Ltd tacked on 1.2 percent after it announced on Thursday it will cut 650 jobs at its directory services unit Sensis as part a restructuring away from its traditional print-based model to a digital media business. New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index added 0.4 percent, or 16.7 points to 4,187.1. STOCKS ON THE MOVE * Billabong Ltd fell 3.3 percent to A$0.88, a five-week low. The embattled surfwear company posted a first-half net loss of A$536.6 million and lowered its full year outlook. (0016 GMT) * Crown Ltd added 1.3 percent to A$11.70. The casino giant reported a half-year net profit of A$180.8 million, compared to A$274.4 million in the prior comparable period. (0016 GMT) * Fortescue Metals Group Ltd rose 0.8 percent to A$4.84 after the world's no.4 iron ore miner announced new appointments to its board of directors. (0017 GMT) * Santos gained 2.8 percent to A$12.23. The oil and gas producer reported a 34 percent rise in annual profit after lifting gas production and said its major LNG development projects remained on track. (0017 GMT) * Ten Network Holdings Ltd climbed percent 1.8 percent to A$0.29 after the television network completed the sale of its former Eye UK operations in the United Kingdom. (0018 GMT) (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.