August 10, 2018 / 7:04 AM / 4 months ago

Australian shares weighed by materials and oil stocks; NZ up

(Updates to close)

Aug 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares finished lower on Friday as oil price weakness dragged on energy stocks and as the outlook for earnings from James Hardie Industries, the world’s top fibre cement producer, disappointed investors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.3 percent but managed to end the week 0.7 percent higher, its best week in five. The benchmark climbed 0.5 percent on Thursday.

ASX-listed shares in U.S.-reliant James Hardie Industries PLC dropped 6.6 percent on Friday, with the midpoint of the firm’s guidance range for its fiscal 2019 adjusted operating profit coming below the average of analyst estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“With rising (U.S.) interest rates, it is going to get harder for them going forward and so the market is reading into that,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

Meanwhile, Australia’s energy index lost 1.8 percent on Friday, with crude prices pressured by worries over demand fuelled by China-U.S. trade dispute concerns.

Front-month Brent crude oil futures were trading at $71.91 per barrel at 0607 GMT, down 0.22 percent from their last close.

Beach Energy Ltd, an oil and gas explorer and producer, dropped 3.5 percent and led losses on the energy benchmark.

Australia’s biggest power producer AGL Energy fell 2.3 percent to extend Thursday’s 4.1 percent loss, hit after it forecast minimal profit growth in fiscal 2019.

Financial stocks helped temper losses on the main index for much of the session but gave up most gains made earlier in the day to close up 0.1 percent.

Global miner Rio Tinto, whose shares traded ex-dividend on Thursday, fell 0.8 percent, worse than rival BHP’s 0.7 percent loss.

In New Zealand, the local benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended up 0.8 percent, driven by gains in consumer staples and health care stocks.

However, Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited cut its earnings guidance and slightly lowered its forecast milk payout price, sending the stock of the world’s largest dairy exporter down 2.4 percent. (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha, Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru)

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