Australia Stocks Rise, With Bank Up, Energy Shares Down

MarketWatch Pulse

Australian stocks climbed in early Friday trade amid strength for financials, as broad weakness among the resource shares proved unable to hold back the market. The S&P/ASX 200 was 0.6% higher about 45 minutes into the trading day, with investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd. rallying 4.2% higher as its 27% gain in annual net income surpassed expectations and as its dividend rose. Also strong, Westpac Banking Corp. rose 1.7%, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained 1.4%, though Australia & New Zealand Banking Group lost 0.6% due to its trading ex-dividend. Shares of National Australia Bank Ltd. remained suspended following news of its capital raising and financials results, which included a 20% improvement in six-month net profit. Among other gainers, mall developer Scentre Group added 2.7% to its share price, with Credit Suisse raising its rating on the shares to outperform from neutral, citing an increase in development starts. Stock in JB Hi-Fi Ltd. rose 2% after it reported an almost 7% gain in quarterly same-store sales. On the downside, weaker oil prices sent Woodside Petroleum Ltd. down 2.5% and Oil Search Ltd. down 1.7%, but Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. rose 2.6% after updating investors on its Echidna-1 exploration well off the coast of Brazil. Other decliners included BHP Billiton Ltd. (down 0.9%), Arrium Ltd. (down 5.3%) and Oz Minerals Ltd. (down 0.4%).

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