February 6, 2020 / 2:11 AM / 22 days ago

Australian shares extend gains on miners, energy stocks

* Energy sector up as much as 1.8% as crude firms

* Coles gains after flagging forecast-beating earnings

* Drugmaker CSL hits record high

By Sameer Manekar

Feb 6 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose for a third straight session on Thursday, following a firmer finish on Wall Street, as mining and energy stocks rose on the back of higher commodities and oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6% to 7,019.2 by 0050 GMT, having gained 0.4% on Wednesday.

The energy sector rose the most in more than a month and led the gains on the benchmark after oil prices jumped about 2% overnight.

The country’s largest listed oil and gas explorer Woodside Petroleum advanced 2.2%, its biggest intraday jump in nearly two months, while Santos Ltd gained up to 2.3%.

Sentiment was also supported by unconfirmed reports of possible medical advances to combat the coronavirus outbreak in China, which along with strong U.S. economic data pushed the S&P 500 to a record closing high.

While volatility is expected in the short term, markets have shaken off a lot of things over the last year and are likely to shake off the coronavirus too, said Nick Twidale, general manager at IC Markets.

The World Health Organization, however, played down media reports of “breakthrough” drugs being discovered to treat people infected with the new virus that has claimed more than 560 lives and sparked fears of an economic slowdown in China, Australia’s largest trading partner.

Mining stocks were set for their third consecutive session of gains, boosted by strength in copper prices.

Heavyweights BHP Group and Rio Tinto Ltd added up to 1.1% and 1.3%, respectively.

The financials sub-index marked its biggest intraday gain in nearly a month, lifted by the country’s “Big Four” banks.

Top two lenders Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp rose up to 1% and 2%, respectively.

Shares of Coles Group rose 1.4% after the supermarket chain forecast a smaller-than-expected drop in first-half operating earnings.

Healthcare sector rose up to 1.4%, with the country’s biggest drugmaker CSL Ltd touching a record high.

However, the improved risk sentiment weighed on safe-haven gold stocks, which extended losses into a second session.

Northern Star Resources fell up to 1.5%, while Evolution Mining was set for the third straight session of losses.

New Zealand’s financial markets were closed for a holiday. (Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

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