July 3, 2020 / 7:22 AM / a month ago

Australian shares mark best week in a month as data drives rebound hopes

(Updates to close)

By Pranav A K

July 3 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Friday, boosted by healthcare stocks, and notched their biggest weekly gain in nearly a month as strong U.S. jobs data and a record surge in domestic retail sales raised hopes for a recovery in the economic environment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose up to 1.1% before paring early gains to close 0.4% higher at 6,057.90, its fourth straight session of gains and the strongest close since June 11. It added 2.6% in its best weekly gain since June 5.

Following a surge in U.S. payrolls for June, data showed Australia’s retail sales jumped a record 16.9% in May, recovering from an historic plunge in April and suggesting consumer spending will not be nearly as weak in the June quarter as initially feared.

James Tao, market analyst at CommSec said the data at home was a good sign that there are “green shoots” for the economy.

“We’ve had a pretty good week so far and the U.S. markets being closed tonight certainly takes away a bit of incentives and so we did see a bit of profit-taking in between,” said James Tao, market analyst at CommSec.

Aiding investor sentiment, Australia reported a drop in new coronavirus cases on Friday, with a surge in the second most populated state Victoria appearing to have eased.

Healthcare stocks jumped 2.3% to an over five-week high, propelled by index heavyweight CSL Ltd rising 2.7% and Cochlear climbing 5.9% after the hearing aid maker got a U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for four new products.

Elsewhere, Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.4% after the lender joined a growing list of big companies which admitted to underpaying staff.

Rising for a second straight day, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was 0.5% higher at 11,558.7.

The benchmark added 3.8% for the week, its best weekly performance since mid-April. (Reporting by A K Pranav in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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