November 21, 2017 / 1:45 AM / in a year

Australian shares steady as banks offset gains in materials; NZ falls

Nov 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares were flat on Tuesday with declines in the financial sector negating miners’ strong gains after a rise in metals prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.06 percent or 3.429 points to 5,949.100 by 0127 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.2 percent on Monday.

The Australian financial index dipped 0.1 percent, with the “Big Four” banks in the red.

The Reserve Bank of Australia released minutes of its November meeting which showed policymakers warned of “considerable uncertainty” about how quickly wages growth and inflation might pick up.

The RBA left interest rates at record lows for more than a year.

Miners helped keep the benchmark afloat with the metals and mining index rising 0.3 percent, supported by a 0.4 percent rise in heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto .

Chinese iron ore futures shed early losses, and rallied more than 1 percent on Monday, as steel prices recovered after a three-day slide.

The mining sector was also helped by copper prices which edged higher on Monday, supported by falling inventories and a monthly upturn in China’s property prices.

U.S. stocks also provided an upbeat lead as Wall Street rose on Monday with Verizon boosting the telecoms sector after the stock was upgraded, while a deal in semiconductors lifted high-performing tech shares.

“There is a buy interest in the market and it is re-asserting itself today. The rise in U.S. markets has also provided a strong background to our markets this morning,” said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

“There’s also focus on individual stocks. The a2 Milk Company delivered a strong profit growth in the first four months of the financial year, which is helping the market,” Spooner added.

A2 Milk Company Ltd surged 4.7 percent to its highest in more than two weeks after posting net profit after tax of NZ$52.3 million ($35.64 million) in the four months to October versus NZ$22 million a year ago.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dipped 0.4 percent or 28.619 points to 8,061.190.

Health care stocks led the decline as Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd slumped 4.7 percent despite reporting a 4 percent rise in half year net profit after tax.

Meanwhile, shares of dairy firm Fonterra Co-Operative Group Ltd, rose 0.3 percent after it said its milk production in New Zealand rose 3 percent during the peak production month of October due to the return of favourable weather after a wet spring.

$1 = 1.4676 New Zealand dollars Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer

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