February 19, 2018 / 1:40 AM / a year ago

Australia shares rise on financials; NZ slips

* Investors focus on reporting season

* Reporting companies among benchmark’s top gainers

* Trade muted ahead of U.S. holiday

By Aaron Saldanha

Feb 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares traded higher on Monday as gains in the financial and industrial sectors overcame losses in energy stocks, with investors also focused on earnings reports.

“With so much of the region just returning or still on Lunar New Year celebrations and the fact we have a U.S. holiday tonight, there is not a lot of commitment in the trading we are seeing today,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 percent, or 24.2 points on Monday to 5,928.8 by 0102 GMT, supported by financials and industrials stocks.

“Despite the higher commodity prices generally and despite the fact that those higher prices came in the backdrop of a strengthening U.S. dollar, investor focus is very much at the moment on the individual balance sheet and profit reporting,” said CMC Markets’ McCarthy.

The benchmark fell 0.1 percent on Friday.

The top gainer was Infigen Energy, which posted a 25 percent jump in half-year net profit and entered into new financing facilities.

GWA Group Ltd was also among the top gainers, as half year profit rose 7 percent. Its shares rose as much as 12.9 percent.

The Australian financial index was the top contributor to benchmark gains, led by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, which climbed as much as 1.2 percent.

The financial index’s top gainer, NIB Holding Ltd, rose the most in close to 2-1/2 months.

Moving in the other direction, energy stocks accounted for Monday’s biggest losing sector as the sector index fell by the most in 10 days.

Materials stocks also fell sharply with mining major BHP losing as much as 2.1 percent.

Rival Rio Tinto lost as much as 1.1 after giving up intra-day gains which had seen it touch its highest since July, 2011.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand trade was marked by falls in consumer discretionary and health care stocks.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.1 percent, or 9.56 points, to 8,115.75.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd fell 1.4 percent while Skycity Entertainment Group Ltd traded 1.7 percent lower. (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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