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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