February 16, 2018 / 5:41 AM / a month ago

Australia shares slip, but end week with modest bounce; NZ up

* Aussie shares end lower, end week with small gain

* Underwhelming earnings hurt mining and casino stocks

* NZ shares up 0.8 pct (Updates to close)

Feb 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares finished slightly lower on Friday, weighed down by mining and casino stocks as underwhelming earnings forced a sell-off that offset gains in healthcare shares.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.1 percent or 5 points to 5,904. The benchmark rose 1.2 percent on Thursday.

The index finished the week up 1.1 percent, clawing back some of its 4.6 percent drop the previous week which was triggered by a sharp sell-off in U.S. markets.

Miner South32 was the biggest drag on the index, tumbling 5.1 percent after Deutsche Bank and UBS cut its price target on concerns over rising costs and lowering production.

The world’s biggest manganese producer on Thursday reported a 14 percent rise in first-half profit, but shares dropped 5.4 percent.

South32 shares saw its worst week since December 2016.

Shares of top gold miner Newcrest Mining lost 3.2 percent after first-half underlying profit slid 58 percent, hit by production disruptions to an earthquake last year.

Casino operator Star Entertainment Group said half-year profit tumbled to its weakest level since listing, hurt by a slump in house wins, sending shares hurtling down 6.3 percent to its weakest close since November 20.

Top banking stocks Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group helped cement the losses, falling 0.8 percent each.

The Reserve Bank of Australia said it expects to make only gradual progress in reducing unemployment and having inflation return to its 2-3 percent target band, signalling interest rates will stay at record lows for a while yet.

Healthcare giant CSL Ltd capped the losses on the index, rising 1.3 percent to a record close. CSL shares posted their best weekly gain since in over a year.

Health insurer Medibank Private Ltd jumped 3.6 percent after it said first-half net profit rose 5.9 percent to A$245.6 million ($195.67 million).

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.8 percent or 61.98 points to finish the session at 8,125.31.

The index ended the week 0.4 percent higher, after sliding 3.8 percent the previous week.

Auckland International Airport Ltd was the top boost to the index, rising 2.8 percent after reporting favorable results.

Tourism Holdings Ltd was the biggest gainer on the index, surging 6.5 percent to a record close after entering a joint venture with Thor Industries to buy a U.S.-based travel planning platform. ($1 = 1.2552 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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