Australia shares steady, earnings in focus as CBA logs record profit
(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY Aug 14 (Reuters) - Australian shares were flat in a choppy Wednesday morning, as investors sought to lock-in gains after buying heavily in some of the big names, including Commonwealth Bank of Australia which posted a record annual profit.
The opening session was underpinned by higher metals and iron ore prices as well as strong U.S. and European data, though the focus was squarely on the domestic earnings season.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia was the highlight of the morning, logging a forecast-beating 10 percent climb in full-year cash profit to a record high of A$7.82 billion ($7.11 billion).. The stock surged to an all-time high of A$75.00 earlier in the session, but soon turned around and dropped 1.2 percent as investors took profit.
Westpac Banking Corp added 0.9 percent while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group climbed 1 percent.
"The rise we've seen in the past few weeks has been in anticipation of good results, the market has already built in a share price rise," said Greg Fraser, head of research at Kimber Capital.
"The index itself might not necessarily push a lot higher from here but I wouldn't expect it to be going backwards."
The S&P/ASX 200 index, which rose 0.2 percent in opening trade, was flat at 5,156.8 points by 0208 GMT. The benchmark rose 1 percent on Tuesday to notch 2-1/2 month highs.
The market has bounced back from a trough of 4,632.3 points hit on June 25, and a solid earnings season so far has seen it test the 5,200 points level, edging towards the year-to-date high of 5,249.6 hit on May 15.
The mining sector underperformed with Rio Tinto Ltd trading ex-dividend, though a rise in metals prices helped to contain the losses.
Rio dropped 1.1 percent while BHP Billiton Ltd slipped 0.2 percent. Oz Minerals Ltd lost 3.1 percent after the copper and gold miner posted a first half loss of $268 million, hit by a fall in commodity prices.
Elsewhere, a burst of earnings releases had investors busily adjusting their positions.
CSL Ltd shed 2.9 percent to A$65.83, erasing most its rally in the previous session, but was still trading near all-time highs. The world's No.2 blood products maker reported a 19 percent rise in full-year net profit to $1.22 billion, after strong sales of its core products offset a strong Australian dollar.
Leighton Holdings Ltd dropped 5.3 percent after missing analyst forecasts in its earnings report
WorleyParsons Ltd climbed 5.1 percent to a 3-month high of A$23.01 after the engineering and construction company forecast stronger earnings for the current year despite posting an 8.8 percent drop in net profit to A$322.1 million in the year to June.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index was trading flat at 4,527.0.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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