Australian shares have ended slightly higher with strong performances in the healthcare and energy sectors helping offset a weak session for the big miners and banks.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 stock index was up 18.2 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 1630 AEDT on Thursday, with oil producers and healthcare companies leading the gains.
Bell Direct equities strategist Julia Lee said, while trade was light, local investors are being cautious.
“People have been talking up a correction or even a crash, but I’ve crunched the numbers and since 1970 there have been 25 occasions where the MSCI World Index recorded double-digit growth, as we have seen in 2017, and on 19 occasions, it’s been backed up by another year of growth,” Ms Lee said.
“2018 is shaping up to be another one of those.”
Healthcare giants CSL and Ramsay Healthcare ended 1.5 per cent and 1.7 per cent higher, respectively, while cannabis-related stocks were boosted by the federal government’s decision to approve medicinal marijuana exports from February.
Distributor and developer Bod Australia – which earlier signed a deal with Singapore-listed iX Biopharma to supply a range of medicinal cannabis extracts – soared 17 cents, 39.5 per cent to 60 cents, Cann Group lifted $1.02, or 35.4 per cent to $3.90 and The Hydropo Company gained 22 cents, or 30.8 per cent to 93.5 cents.
On a weak day for financial stocks, National Australia Bank was the only major lender among the big four not to shed between 0.2 and 0.4 per cent – ending the day 0.5 per cent higher, at $29.58.
The materials companies were mixed, following lower overnight metals prices.
BHP Billiton gained 0.5 per cent, Rio Tinto lost 0.4 per cent and gold miner Newcrest lost 1.1 per cent.
And despite global crude prices rising two per cent, boosting Woodside Petroleum by 2.7 per cent, Oil Search by 3.6 per cent and Beach Energy by 3.5 per cent, Origin Energy shed 0.4 per cent and Santos ended flat at $5.45.
Meanwhile, the Australian dollar is maintaining near 10-week highs despite a greenback strengthened by US Federal Reserve minutes showing officials continue to back gradual interest-rate rises.
The Australian dollar was trading at 78.39 US cents at 1700 AEDT on Thursday, from 78.22 US cents on Wednesday.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 was up 6.7 points, or 0.11 per cent, at 6,077.1 points
* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 10.1 points, or 0.16 per cent, at 6,185.4 points
* The SPI200 futures contract was down seven points, or 0.12 per cent, at 6,024 points
* National turnover was 4.6 billion securities traded worth $4.6 billion
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEDT:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 78.39 US cents, from 78.22 on Wednesday
* 88.31 Japanese yen, from 87.82 yen
* 65.22 euro cents, from 64.87 euro cents
* 58.00 British pence, from 57.49 pence
* 110.33 NZ cents, from 110.21 cents
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEDT was $US1,310.10 per fine ounce, from $US1,314.60 per fine ounce on Wednesday.
BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:
* CGS 4.50 per cent April 2020, 2.0158pct, from 2.0466pct
* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.6246pct, from 2.6624pct
Sydney Futures Exchange prices:
* March 2018 10-year bond futures contract at 97.320 (implying a yield of 2.680pct), from 97.285 (implying a yield of 2.715pct) on Wednesday
* March 2018 3-year bond futures contract at 97.850 (2.150pct), from 97.825 (2.175pct).
(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEDT previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEDT previous local session)