Australia Stocks Edge Higher, Building on Week's Gain

By Robb M. Stewart Features Dow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--A further modest advance by Australian shares Friday capped the strongest week for the local market since late March, buoyed in large part by a rebound by the banks that more than offset the drag of mining stocks.

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The S&P/ASX 200 finished up 10.8 points, or 0.2%, at 5774.0. That left the index 1.7% higher over a holiday-shortened week, taking back the bulk of last week's slump.

For the session, 2.83 billion shares were traded with a value of 8.09 billion Australian dollars (US$6.14 billion), Commonwealth Securities said.

"The ASX 200 has produced the unexpected this week: in the absence of any Earth shattering macro news influencing the heavyweight financial or materials sectors, it has managed to produce high volatility," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

While the market was calmer Friday, the index moved by more than 1% on each of the last three days, he said.

Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital in Sydney, said local stocks were due a bounce after having fallen 5% from early May highs and as funds position ahead of the June 30 end to the financial year.

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National Australia Bank led the major banks higher for the day, rising 0.5%. Westpac Banking edged up 0.1%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia added 0.2% and Australia & New Zealand Banking rose 0.4%. Over the week, they rose an average of 2%.

Investment bank and asset manager Macquarie picked up 0.6% on Friday and 4.4% for the week.

The five banks have been under pressure for much of the last month as worries have built over lackluster earnings, capital requirements and a surprise tax on the liabilities introduced in the federal budget.

Energy stocks were mixed on Friday, with Woodside Petroleum losing 0.2% and Santos falling 0.3% but Oil Search gaining 0.7%.

BHP Billiton pulled back from its early weakness to finish down 0.1% after it said it had appointed director Ken MacKenzie, former boss of packaging company Amcor, to succeed Jac Nasser as chairman.

Rio Tinto slipped 0.3% and Fortescue Metals Group lost 0.2%.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 16, 2017 03:26 ET (07:26 GMT)