January 14, 2020 / 6:09 AM / a month ago

Australia shares hit record high on trade deal optimism; NZ up

* Positive China trade data improves risk sentiment

* Energy stocks buoyed by higher oil prices

* Drugmaker CSL off record high

* Resolute Mining in talks with EMR Capital for gold mine sale (Updates to close)

By Nikhil Subba

Jan 14 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed at a record high on Tuesday, with miners and energy stocks lifting the benchmark, a day before the signing of a trade deal between Washington and Beijing.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended about 0.9% higher at 6,962.20 at the close of trade, following a 0.4% weaker finish on Monday.

The signing of the interim deal will mark a major de-escalation of the 18-month trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies that has roiled global markets and stoked worries about a global recession.

Adding to the positivity, the U.S. Treasury Department dropped its designation of China as a currency manipulator, which was widely seen as an act of goodwill.

“The decision is a symbolic gesture ahead of tomorrow’s signing,” analysts at DBS Group Research said in a note.

Washington in August accused Beijing of manipulating its currency after China let the yuan drop to its lowest point in more than a decade.

Risk sentiment also received a boost from strong Chinese economic data on Tuesday showing rising exports and imports in December.

With the news supporting global growth expectations, Australia’s miners, the country’s most export-focused sector, climbed 1.2% at close, helped by a rise in iron ore prices.

The world’s largest miner BHP Group ended 1.3% up, while peer Rio Tinto advanced 1.9% to close at its highest since July 5.

December quarter production season for Australian miners kicks off on Thursday.

Resolute Mining Ltd ended 4% higher after the gold miner said it was in advanced talks with private equity firm EMR Capital Management for the sale of its Ravenswood gold mine in Queensland for up to A$300 million ($206.94 million).

Energy stocks climbed nearly 1% buoyed by a rise in oil prices, ahead of the deal between U.S. and China, the world’s top oil consumers.

Industry heavyweights Woodside Petroleum and Santos ended 0.7% and 0.9% higher, respectively.

Financials, which comprise some of the biggest companies in the country, finished up 0.6% at its highest since Dec. 17, with three of the ‘big four’ banks in the positive territory.

Drugmaker CSL which closed up about 0.7% after hitting a record high earlier in the day, helped the healthcare sub-index advance about 0.8%.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.7% to finish the session at 11,625.13.

Software maker Gentrack Group strengthened 2.9% at close while energy retailer Contact Energy rose 2.8%. ($1 = 1.4497 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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