Australia Stocks Buoyed by Banks, Resources Companies

By Robb M. Stewart Features Dow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--Banks and resources stocks led a second straight day of strong days for Australia's stock market, taking it to its highest finish in two weeks on Thursday.

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Notching its sharpest rise in more than a fortnight, the S&P/ASX 200 picked up 62.4 points, or 1.1%, to close at 5818.1, near the session high.

The four largest banks, which carry a heavy weight in the index, collectively added about 26 points. Energy and materials stocks, as well as information technology shares, also contributed strong gains.

"Global markets collectively flicked the sentiment switch in overnight trading," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, adding central bankers in several countries had shifted market thinking with commentary suggesting higher interest rates may come sooner on the back of strengthening economies.

"The result is a surge in shares and industrial commodities, and pressure on safe havens such as bonds and the [U.S. dollar]," he said.

Chinese iron-ore futures extended gains of late that have followed steel-mill closures and high demand for restocking of the commodity, while crude oil also continued to climb in Asian trading, buoyed by a decline in U.S. output.

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Financial stocks were on the rise across Asia after major U.S. financial institutions received Federal Reserve approval to lift dividend payouts and share buybacks. Australian banks are recovering from several weeks of selling from early May after Canberra introduced a tax on the biggest lenders' liabilities and amid worries about the housing market and the potential for additional regulatory capital requirements.

BHP Billiton rose 2.6%, Rio Tinto gained 3.3% and Fortescue Metals Group added 2.8%. The three are among the world's largest iron-ore producers.

Diversified miner South32 was 2.6% higher and gold miner Newcrest Mining was lifted 1.5%.

Among energy stocks, Woodside Petroleum was up by 1.7%, Oil Search jumped 4.6% and Santos was 3% stronger.

Australia & New Zealand Banking led the major banks with a rise of 2.4%. Commonwealth Bank of Australia added 1.6%, Westpac Banking gained 2% and National Australia Bank was ahead by 2.2%. Investment bank and asset manager Macquarie rebounded 2.2% from losses the last four sessions running.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 29, 2017 03:22 ET (07:22 GMT)