Australian shares end slightly higher after Morrison win ends political uncertainty; NZ up
* Healthcare index posts record closing high
* Financial index falls for the 5th straight session
(Updates to close)
By Sumeet Gaikwad
Aug 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed marginally
higher on Friday after Treasurer Scott Morrison won a party
leadership vote, putting him on track to become the country's
new prime minister and ending a week of political turmoil that
hit market sentiment.
Morrison, who will be Australia's sixth prime minister in
less than 10 years, emerged victorious from a three-way race
with former home affairs minister Peter Dutton and Foreign
Minister Julie Bishop.
"I think Scott Morrison as the new prime minister is, by
far, the more preferred candidate from the market point of
view," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate
stockbroking at Argonaut.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.05 percent to 6,247.3
at the close of trade, having risen as much as 0.5 percent
earlier in the session. The index fell 1.5 percent during the
The benchmark edged higher on the back of gains in
healthcare and consumer staples but losses in commodities and
financials firms capped a wider rally.
The Australian healthcare index closed at a record
high with heavyweights CSL Ltd and Cochlear
rising 3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.
"Any of these companies with strong offshore earnings
clearly benefit from the softening Australian dollar. The
momentum is all for the downside," said McGlew.
The Australian dollar rallied higher on Friday after
the leadership vote, which ended days of political uncertainty,
having fallen 1.7 percent over the previous two sessions.
The financial index fell 0.5 percent to post a
two-month closing low. The index has fallen over 4 percent this
Three of Australia's "big four" banks ended lower, with the
second biggest lender, Westpac Banking Corp, the
biggest drag, slipped over 2 percent. Westpac on Friday reported
lower net interest margins for the third quarter amid higher
"I think that one of the things we are looking for in our
banks is their forecast levels of impairment from bad debts in
particular," McGlew added.
Consumer stocks lent support to the benchmark with
Wesfarmers and Woolworths Group rising 1.5
percent and 1.95 percent, respectively.
Commodity markets were lower as the U.S.-China trade dispute
escalated after the world's two largest economies implemented
punitive 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion worth of each other's
The gold index fell nearly 3 percent with Newcrest
Mining posting an over 19-month closing low.
Copper, Shanghai rebar steel futures and gold fell on
Thursday as the U.S.-China trade dispute weighed along-with a
strengthened dollar on expectations of hike in U.S. interest
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.22
percent or 19.76 points to finish the session at 9,159.63.
Medical devices maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp
led the gains, rising 0.9 percent, while Trade Me Group
followed suit to add 2.6 percent.
(Reporting by Sumeet Gaikwad in Bengaluru; Additional reporting
by Nikhil Nainan; Editing by Sam Holmes)
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