(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY Feb 6 Australian shares regained ground
on Thursday after a three-day slide as investors picked up
battered stocks in the mining and financial sectors, with upbeat
retail sales data lending further support.
The Big Four banks all posted gains, with Commonwealth Bank
of Australia adding 1.1 percent and Westpac Banking
Corp climbing 1.2 percent.
Miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd
gained 0.9 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
"Shunning uninspiring leads from overseas markets, the shift
in the domestic interest rate outlook which soured sentiment
among domestic investors looks to have dissipated," said Niall
King, sales trader at CMC Markets in a note, adding that
investors were searching for value after days of selling.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.8 percent, or 40.5
points, at 5,111.5 as of 0041 GMT. The benchmark had lost 2.3
percent over the past three days and hit a seven-week closing
low on Wednesday.
Data released on Thursday showed that Australian retail
sales topped forecasts for a fifth straight month in December,
boding well for consumer spending and lifting shares of
Consumer retail staple Wesfarmers Ltd jumped 1.8
percent, while department store operators Myer Holdings Ltd
and David Jones Ltd gained 1.7 percent and 0.8
Supermarket giant Woolworths Ltd climbed 1.7
percent, also after reporting a 6 percent rise in first-half
sales as online sales surged.
Elsewhere, Echo Entertainment Group recovered 3.2
percent, after losing 6 percent in the prior session when the
company announced its chief executive was retiring, leaving the
casino operator to fend for itself in a turf war against Crown
Resorts Ltd. Crown edged 0.1 percent higher.
Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd jumped 3.8 percent on
bargain hunting, after a recent rout sparked by media reports
that the company would suffer a significant half-year loss
because of higher operating costs.
Sundance Energy Australia Ltd lost 4 percent to a
three-week low of A$0.96. The company said earlier it expects
its U.S. initial public offering of 7.75 million American
Depositary Shares to be priced between $16.50 and $18.50 each.
Each ADS is comprised of 20 ordinary shares
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.1
percent to 4,807.9.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Chris Gallagher)