April 20 (Reuters) - Australian shares clawed back from three-week lows on Thursday as bargain hunters stepped in after the market was sold off in the last three sessions.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 8.19 points, or 0.14 percent, to 5812.00 by 0251 GMT.
“Markets have pulled back to the previous break out level and so we’re seeing some support from technical buys that are coming in because the price of the index has pulled back too,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.
Risk appetite had dented in the last few days hurt by a sustained weakness in commodity prices and as stocks tracked wider market weakness.
Financial stocks bounced back, leading the gains on the benchmark, with the ‘big four’ banks rising between 0.4 percent and 0.9 percent at one point.
Telecom stocks backed the gains as Telstra hit a one-week high, while rival TPG Telecom rose 2.2 percent, its highest since April 11.
“I think there is bargain hunting in the market today, particularly in the telco sector,” said Bill Keenan, general manager of direct equities research at broker Lonsec.
Telstra shares were on a losing streak for four days after TPG won a spectrum auction on April 12.
“It appears that investors have digested the placement from TPG, there is a reassessment of the space going on and some enthusiasm for the lower share prices we are seeing in the telecom sector,” McCarthy added.
At the other end, energy stocks continued to be under pressure tracking overnight weakness in crude oil prices.
Woodside Petroleum, Australia’s largest independent oil and gas producer, dropped to a more-than two-week low after reporting a fall in quarterly revenue .
Large-cap miner Rio Tinto Ltd hit a one-week high after it maintained its annual iron ore shipment guidance despite weakening ore prices.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index lost 0.22 percent, or 15.56 points, to 7202.95 at 0249 GMT.
Data showed the inflation in the country rose to its highest in five years in the first quarter due to temporary gains from higher oil and food prices.
Consumer and Industrial stocks weighed on the index. A2 Milk Company Ltd was the top loser, falling 2.2 percent. (Reporting by Anusha Ravindranath in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Hanna Paul)