May 18, 2018 / 2:34 AM / 4 days ago

Australia shares hurt by materials losses, CSL shines on profit upgrade; NZ gain

* CSL Ltd hits record high

* Miners fall on weak commodity prices

* NZ’s Goodman Property Trust hits over 10-yr high

By Sumeet Gaikwad

May 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares pulled back slightly on Friday as weak commodity prices hit material stocks and tempered a rally in the healthcare sector, which was buoyed by an earnings upgrade from biotherapeutics firm CSL Ltd.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 11.30 points, or 0.19 percent lower at 6,083 by 0207 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.2 percent on Thursday and is poised to end the week lower.

The healthcare sector rose to an all-time high, helped by CSL Ltd, which soared as much as 5.6 percent to a record-high A$185.53.

The rally came after the biotherapeutics company said it expected full-year after-tax profit to be in range of about $1.68 billion to $1.71 billion, higher than an earlier forecast of $1.55 billion to $1.60 billion, underpinned by a severe influenza season in northern hemisphere.

It was CSL’s second earnings upgrade this year.

Miners BHP and Rio Tinto fell over 1 percent each, dragging the benchmark lower.

China’s iron ore and other steelmaking raw materials slipped for a second session on Thursday, while analysts said they expect softer demand in the coming months as the country shifts its focus from heavy industries to services.

In the financial sector, lender Australia and New Zealand Banking Group was higher while other three of the ‘Big Four’ fell between 0.7 percent to 0.9 percent.

Chief market strategist at CMC Markets, Michael McCarthy, said that investors were trimming positions heading into the weekend.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.25 percent, or 21.53 points, to 8,624.91.

Ryman Healthcare drove gains on the index, rising as much as 3 percent, after reporting a 14 percent jump in its full-year profit.

Goodman Property Trust supported gains in the real estate sector, up as much as 2.5 percent to an over 10-year high. The property investor will sell its majority-held VXV office portfolio to a number of Blackstone funds for NZ$635 million ($437.32 million), the property trust’s manager said.

For more individual stocks activity click on ($1 = 1.4520 New Zealand dollars) (Reporting by Sumeet Gaikwad in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shanima A Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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