Australia Stocks End Higher for Second Day in a Row
By Robb M. Stewart
MELBOURNE, Australia--Australian shares Friday finished higher for a second straight session, narrowing the loss for the holiday-shortened week, as banks continued to recover and mining stocks were buoyed by a rise in iron-ore prices.
Sentiment across the region was positive after overnight gains on Wall Street as investors braced for the French presidential election, whose first round is set to be held Sunday. Concerns over a suspected terror attack Thursday in Paris appeared to have been brushed aside in the market.
The S&P/ASX 200 closed 32.7 points, or 0.6%, higher at 5854.1. However, after losses Tuesday and Wednesday following the Easter holiday, the index finished down 0.6% for the week.
Sellers were on the back foot as metals prices rebounded and amid solid signals from U.S. corporate earnings season and heightened expectations that Washington might be able to achieve a tax overhaul this year, said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.
Chinese iron-ore and steel futures rebounded after recording sharp declines in the past month.
The major banks closed higher for a second straight day, led by a 1% advance by National Australia Bank and 0.9% gain by Australia & New Zealand Bank, which said it had reached an agreement to sell its retail operations in Vietnam. Investment bank and asset manager Macquarie Group was up 1%.
Diversified mining companies BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto gained 1.7% and 2.7%, respectively, and Fortescue Metals Group climbed 5.2%. They are among the world's largest exporters of iron ore.
Duet Group rallied 9.5% after Australia's treasurer agreed not to block a 7.3 billion Australian dollar (US$5.5 billion) takeover by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing's Cheung Kong and the energy infrastructure group's shareholders voted in favor of the deal.
After warning its first-half profit was set to decline, Australian bottler Coca-Cola Amatil sank 11%.
For the day, 2.59 billion shares were traded with a value of A$5.19 billion, Commonwealth Securities said.
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