January 10, 2020 / 6:27 AM / 10 days ago

Australian shares at all-time high as risk sentiment recovers

* Aussie stocks rise nearly 3% this week

* CSL jumps 2.8%, hits record closing high

* Gold index ends 3 straight weeks of gains (Updates to close)

By Niyati Shetty

Jan 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares scaled record highs on Friday as easing Middle East tensions spread a dose of relief among investors, while hopes that a Sino-U.S. Phase 1 trade deal will be signed next week added to the cheer.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 0.8% or 54.8 points to 6,929. The bourse ended up 0.8% on Thursday and rose nearly 3% this week.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to stop President Donald Trump from further military action against Iran, in an effort to rein in the conflict.

Meanwhile, risk sentiment was also buoyed by China’s commerce ministry on Thursday saying the country’s Vice Premier Liu He will visit Washington next week to sign the Phase 1 trade deal.

Financial stocks gained nearly 1%, with the “Big Four” lenders rising between 0.4% and 1.2%. Among them, top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained the most.

Insurance Australia Group, insurer Suncorp Group and QBE Insurance Group also ended the week in black, as the industry’s strong reinsurance programmes will mitigate impact of rising bushfire-related claims.

Drugmaker CSL Ltd, the country’s most expensive stock and fourth largest firm by market cap, rose 2.8% to a record closing high of A$299.3.

“There’s perhaps some sort of fear of missing out syndrome from investors,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut, adding that it was only a matter of time for CSL to cross the A$300 level.

Tech stocks advanced to a more than five-week high, tracking gains in U.S. peers, on expectations of faster global growth. Software firm WiseTech Global Ltd added 2%, while peer Xero Ltd tacked on 2.2%

Holding back gains in the broader benchmark, the gold sub-index dropped 2.7%. Despite strong gains and soaring bullion prices across the week, the sub-index snapped three straight weeks of gains to clock a 1.1% decline.

Resolute Mining slumped 9.1% and was the worst performer on the ASX bourse, while Evolution Mining tumbled 6% after the miner forecast gold production for fiscal 2020 at the bottom of its outlook range.

In neighbouring New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose marginally to 11,551.70.

Utilities Meridian Energy and Z Energy added 2.7% and 2%, respectively. (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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