October 12, 2018 / 6:18 AM / 2 months ago

Australian shares inch up amid subdued investor interest; NZ rises

* Metals and mining stocks gain big

* Energy, real estate stocks drag benchmark

* Aussie cenbank warns of housing slowdown

Oct 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed slightly firmer on Friday, but finished lower for a second consecutive week after heavy losses resulting from a global sell-off in the previous session.

The S&P/ASX 200 index finished 0.2 percent, or 11.90 points, up at 5,895.70 but the benchmark was off 4.7 percent for the week.

Losses in the energy and real estate stocks were offset by solid gains in the metals and mining space.

Aussie shares have shed more than 5 percent almost halfway through the month with the Wall Street rout on Wednesday adding to the bearishness brought on by the Sino-U.S. trade war, and rising U.S. interest rates, and the IMF’s forecast for a global economic slowdown.

The metals and mining index led gains, finishing 2.2 percent higher, with gold stocks glittering for a second straight session as the yellow metal benefited from its status as a safe haven during turbulent times.

Data from Australia’s biggest trading partner China showed that September aluminium and steel exports remained steady.

“At the end of the day, China will keep making steel and there will be significant demand for iron ore. Iron ore prices are still holding up relatively well,” said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut.

Mining behemoths BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Ltd finished 1.3 percent and 1.9 percent higher, while the world’s No. 4 iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group Ltd closed 5.3 percent higher.

The energy sector also closed 1.5 percent weaker as crude prices retreated.

Brent crude futures fell 3.4 percent on Thursday.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd, the country’s largest independent oil and gas producer, closed 1.8 percent down, while Santos Ltd finished 1.2 percent down.

Adding to the subdued sentiment, Australia’s central bank in its Financial Stability Review released on Friday highlighted the threat from a housing slowdown, even while emphasising that the economy overall was improving.

A Reuters poll earlier in the day had identified trade tensions and falling house prices as clear hurdles despite a forecast of solid economic growth in the country over the next couple of years.

The S&P/ASX Real Estate index closed 1.1 percent down with Mirvac Group and Dexus featuring among the top percentage drags in the sector, finishing 2.6 percent and 2.2 percent down, respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished up for the first time in ten sessions, closing 1.4 percent or 122.04 points higher at 8,843.24 but fell 4 percent for the week.

a2 Milk Co was the top percentage gainer on the benchmark index, staging a good recovery to close 9.4 percent higher after it finished down 11.5 percent in the previous session.

Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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