| March 17
March 17 Australian shares traded higher on
Friday with financials accounting for more than half of the
gains, after National Australia Bank Ltd raised home
investor loan rates to clamp down on the "strong growth" in the
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 percent, or 15.31
points, at 5,801.10 as of 0114 GMT. The benchmark is on track
for a second week of gains.
"This morning, all of the rise in the index can just be
attributed to the four major banks, with NAB being the strongest
gainer," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate
stockbroking at Argonaut.
The 'Big Four' banks gained between 0.5 percent to 1.1
National Australia Bank, whose shares rose as much as 0.8
percent, hiked its interest rates on residential investment
loans by 25 basis points to 5.80 percent on Thursday, becoming
the first of the country's 'Big Four' lenders to raise mortgage
"In terms of NAB's announcement yesterday, the expectation
is that the other banks will follow," said Patersons Securities
economist Tony Farnham.
Materials were the second biggest gainers on the index with
Rio Tinto Ltd up as much as 1.2 percent, extending
gains into a fifth session of trading.
Both copper and Chinese iron ore rose for a fifth session on
Thursday, while Shanghai rebar steel futures hit a three-year
Gold prices held firm on Friday not far from one-week highs
hit the session before, and remaining on course for their first
weekly rise in three. Newcrest Mining Ltd rose as much
as 2 percent.
Oil prices slipped on Thursday as U.S. crude inventories
near record high levels which raised concerns whether OPEC-led
output cuts were starting to drain a global glut. Oil prices,
however, edged up in early trading on Friday.
Australian energy stocks were also among the losers with
natural gas company Santos Limited losing 1.5 percent
and Origin Energy Ltd down 2.1 percent.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2
percent to 7,168.16 points, helped by gains in industrials and
healthcare sectors. The benchmark is on track to snap two weeks
Auckland International Airport Ltd and Summerset
Group Holdings Ltd rose 0.4 percent and 1.5 percent,
(Reporting by Sindhu Chandrasekaran in Bengaluru; additional
reporting by Urvashi Goenka; Editing by Randy Fabi)