Australia shares hit 5-month peak, NZ edges up
(Updates to close)
March 1 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed at a five-month
peak on Friday as investors snapped up financials and defensive
stocks, but gains were capped by losses in oil producers.
The S&P/ASX 200 index added 0.4 percent, or 23.7
points, to close at 6,192.70. It gained 0.4 percent on the week.
Oil prices rose on Friday amid output cuts by OPEC, but
surging U.S. supply and a global economic slowdown prevented
crude from climbing further.
Energy stocks dropped more than 1 percent, with sector
heavyweights Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search
declining 1.6 percent and 1.9 percent respectively.
Transport fuel supplier Caltex was the index's
biggest percentage loser with its 5 percent fall as the stock
Financials, the biggest sector on the benchmark, offset
weakness elsewhere to lead the market higher. Shares of
Insurance Australia Group, up more than 3 percent to
its highest close in more than three weeks, was the sector's top
The Big Four banks advanced, with Commonwealth Bank of
Australia rising the most with a 0.5 percent gain for
"I think we are seeing a preference for more peripheral
players. The support we're seeing is in stocks that have been
beaten up recently," said Michael McCarthy, chief market
strategist at CMC Markets.
"Some of the insurance stocks had a rough time through
reporting, and some investors think their shares have got to
Property trusts also gained as a combination of weak Chinese
data and trepidation over the outcome of Sino-U.S. trade talks
turned some investors towards more defensive stocks.
Meanwhile, data from China showing factory activity remained
in contractionary territory for a third month pressured mining
They fell 0.4 percent despite China's iron ore futures
rising for a third consecutive session on Friday alongside steel
prices, as investors banked on stronger steel demand from
manufacturers and construction projects.
Rare earth minerals miner Lynas Corp extended its
losses from Thursday and was the biggest drag on the index.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZ 50 index edged higher
supported by gains in Fisher and Paykel Healthcare Corp and
Fletcher Building Ltd.
The New Zealand benchmark index gained for a fourth
consecutive week, up 0.5 percent at the end of Friday.
(Reporting by Renju Jose and Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing
by Kim Coghill)
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