January 16, 2019 / 2:03 AM / a year ago

Australian shares edge higher on banks; NZ gains

* Financial stocks lead gains

* Tech stocks climb to a 6-week high in line with U.S. peers

By Shriya Ramakrishnan

Jan 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged up on Wednesday, building on the previous session’s rally driven by hopes of more stimulus measures from its biggest trading partner China.

Still, trading was cautious as investors grappled with a host of issues, including a slowing global economy, worries about a peak in corporate earnings and a yet-unresolved trade war between China and the United States.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 0.2 percent or 9.60 points to 5,824.20 by 0058 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.7 percent on Tuesday, helped by hints from Chinese officials of further supportive measures to stabilise a slowing economy.

Overnight, equity markets largely shrugged off a crushing defeat for UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit divorce deal in parliament. The outcome, while widely expected, could yet stoke uncertainty in the weeks ahead as it may lead to a chaotic exit from the European Union or even to a reversal of the 2016 decision to leave.

Michael McCarthy, Chief Market Strategist at CMC Markets said that most investors are adopting a cautious approach after a strong start to the year.

Financial stocks, the benchmark’s largest constituents, led gains, rising 0.6 percent, supported by the “Big Four” banks. Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group gained as much as 1.1 percent and 0.7 percent respectively.

Energy stocks also lent support with a 0.2 percent gain, helped by strength in crude oil prices.

Fuel refiner Caltex Australia gained 0.8 percent, while Santos Ltd, the country’s no.2 independent gas producer, added 0.6 percent.

Aussie technology stocks climbed 1.4 percent to a six-week high, tracking a surge for Wall Street peers after streaming service Netflix Inc’s announced plans to raise fees for U.S. subscribers.

Software maker WiseTech Global jumped as much as 4.6 percent to its highest since Oct. 8, 2018, while Xero Ltd tacked on 2.2 percent.

Losses in metals and mining stocks capped broader market gains, with global mining giants BHP Group and Rio Tinto losing 0.8 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

Gold stocks dropped 2.3 percent, as a sturdier dollar and stronger equity market dented the precious metal’s appeal.

Among gold producers, Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining led declines, falling 2.3 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent or 38.34 points to 9,002.92.

Financial and consumer stocks led gains, with dairy company A2 Milk rising 2.1 percent to a near 4-month high, while Synlait Milk strengthened 1.6 percent.

Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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