February 11, 2019 / 1:54 AM / 4 months ago

Australia shares dragged down by financials profit taking; NZ higher

* Aged-care stocks rise on new funding

* Financials stock ease after strong gains last week

By Nikhil Subba

Feb 11 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged lower on Monday, as financial stocks gave up some of last week’s rally, capping broader gains in the market that were driven by the mining and gold sectors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.3 percent to 6,052.9 by 0050 GMT. The benchmark slipped 0.1 percent on Friday.

Australia’s financial index was the biggest drag to the benchmark, falling 1.15 percent to 5,843.70 with all the “Big Four” banks trading lower.

Westpac Banking Group and National Australia Bank both slipped around 1.5 percent while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Commonwealth Bank were down about 1 percent.

“Financials (are) weighing on the market, both given the pullback in the currency and people taking a bit of profit since it has been an outperformer recently,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

The government-appointed inquiry into misconduct and wrongdoings in the financial sector released its final recommendations last week, which was seen as less severe than expected, fuelling a rally among financials that boosted the benchmark.

Aged care-focused firms rallied, helped by the government’s new funding announcement for care facilities ahead of an inquiry into the sector.

Estia Health rose 8.15 percent to its highest since Sept. 18. Other major aged care-focused players Japara Healthcare Ltd rose as much as 10.4 percent, Regis Healthcare as much as 5.9 percent and Aveo Group 1.16 percent.

In the resources sector, global miner BHP Group rose 1.6 percent, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd added 1.1 percent, pushing the sector index higher.

Gold explorer OceanaGold Corp was the best performer in the sector, rising as much as 4.75 percent, its biggest intraday percentage gain since Jan 2, aided by strong gold prices.

Additionally, Australian electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi Ltd bucked gloomy sales conditions to post a 5.5 percent rise in half-year profit on Monday, sending its shares to a six-week high.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent, or 37.21 points, to 9,215.06.

Electricity and natural gas supplier Contact Energy Ltd was among top boosts on the New Zealand benchmark, climbing as much as 1.77 percent after posting robust half yearly results. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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