* Benchmark posts biggest weekly loss in almost two months
* Westpac apologises following emergency meeting
* Miners boosted by higher iron ore prices (Updates to close)
By Nikhil Subba
Nov 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares finished firmer on Friday, helped by energy and mining stock gains but worries about the financial sector weighed after Goldman Sachs cut its target price on Westpac, which faces an explosive lawsuit over financial breaches.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.6% higher at 6,709.80, while marking its biggest weekly loss in almost two months. The benchmark fell 0.7% on Thursday.
“Today’s bounce back looks like a recapturing of ground,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, following the losses of the past two sessions.
Mining stocks ended 1% higher as prices of iron ore rose on the back of strong demand for steel.
This helped major players Fortescue Metals Group and BHP Group close up 3.9% and 1.3%, respectively. The sub-index flagged its second consecutive week of losses.
Energy stocks firmed 1.3% but posted their biggest weekly loss in almost two months.
Index heavyweight Santos closed 1.3% higher in its best session in two weeks, while Woodside Petroleum had its best day since Nov. 11, rising 1.2%.
Software firm WiseTech Global climbed 3%, while peer Altium Ltd gained 2.4% to help the tech index close 1.5% higher. The sector ended the week 1% lower.
Meanwhile, financials ended marginally lower, dragged by Westpac Banking Corp, Australia’s second-largest lender, which fell 1.6%, after Goldman Sachs became the first major investment bank to cut its target price on the bank..
Regulators have accused Westpac of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering laws. Westpac on Friday held an emergency meeting to discuss the allegations and apologised for the breaches. The bank did not announce any changes in management, although Prime Minister Scott Morrison had eaerlier called on its board to reflect on Chief Executive Brian Hartzer’s position.
Gold stocks ended almost 1% lower, pressured by declines in shares of OceanaGold Corp, which closed down 8% at their lowest level in nearly four years.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.1% or 11.86 points to finish the session at 10,946.30. The benchmark, however, marked its third straight week of gains.
Software developer Gentrack Group closed 12.6% down at a more than one-year low, while dairy company Synlait Milk ended 3.8% down at a week’s low, both top losers on the day. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba and Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)