Australia shares up, aided by financials and healthcare; NZ at record high
* New Zealand benchmark closes at record high
* Financials snap 10 sessions of losses, but have a weekly
* Strong U.S. data, Wall St advance help Australian stocks
(Updates to close)
March 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Friday, led
by financial and healthcare stocks as the market tracked a rally
on Wall Street after strong U.S. economic data eased worries
about a slowing economy.
The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 0.45 percent or 28
points to close at 6,195.2, an 0.3 percent gain during the week.
The benchmark was flat on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve surprised markets by
abandoning all projections for rate hikes this year due to signs
of softness in the U.S. economy.
However, strong economic data from U.S. on Thursday boosted
Wall Street and helped soothe nerves. Initial claims for jobless
benefits fell more than expected and mid-Atlantic factory
activity rebounded sharply.
"The markets are seeing the world slightly differently after
the Fed meeting and this is not an Australian-centric move. This
is a global equity move driven by what we've seen in U.S.
stocks," said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone
Australian financial stocks rose 0.5 percent to snap
10 sessions of losses, but still had a loss of 0.7 percent for
National Australia Bank Ltd gained 0.5 percent and
Westpac Banking Corp 0.7 percent.
Funds and asset managers that fall sharply earlier in the
week recovered. Perpetual Ltd was up 1.1 percent and
AMP Ltd 0.5 percent.
Healthcare stocks also gained, with index
heavyweight CSL Ltd adding 1.6 percent and Cochlear Ltd
Energy stocks moved up as oil prices hovered around
2019 highs scaled on Thursday, supported by supply cuts by
producer cartel OPEC.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd rose 0.7 percent. Oil Search
Ltd gained 1.8 percent, reaching a more than three-week
Mining stocks declined, led down by gold miners.
Newcrest Mining Ltd fell 0.9 percent while St Barbara
Ltd plunged nearly 30 percent to its lowest close in
over 15 months.
St Barbara's drop came after it cut fiscal 2019 production
guidance for its key Gwalia mine in Western Australia and said
it will not proceed with its Gwalia Mass Extraction project due
to costs being double the original capex forecast.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed at a
record high, rising 0.95 percent or 89.68 points to finish the
session at 9,550.99.
Dairy firm Synlait Milk was the top gainer, jumping
5.1 percent while a2 Milk Company Ltd moved up 0.7
(Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Additional reporting
by Ambar Warrick; Editing by Richard Borsuk)
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