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Australian shares fell back in afternoon trade to close lower on Friday despite the impetus of some strong company profit figures and overnight gains on Wall Street.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index ended Friday down 0.08 per cent at 5,904.0 points, with healthcare and industrial stocks making the strongest gains.

The index gained 1.1 per cent over the week.

Bell Direct equities strategist Julia Lee said Friday’s performance was disappointing given the strong Wall Street leads.

Ms Lee said reporting season, now ending its second week, had been lacklustre so far.

“January’s confession season was so mild that I was expecting to see a more positive environment in terms of upgrades,” she said.

Healthcare sector gains were led by Healthscope, up 6.5 per cent to $1.895 a day after the company posted a 12.6 per cent dip in half-year profit.

Primary Health Care gained 3.4 per cent to $3.65 as it put an end to three years of waning profits by lifting first-half profit 4.7 per cent.

Plasma products maker CSL gained 1.3 per cent to $153.39 and Resmed gained 0.8 per cent to $11.80.

Health insurer Medibank Private closed 3.6 per cent higher at $3.15, after it lifted half-year profit almost six per cent to $245.6 million.

A fall in gold mining stocks weighed on the materials sector, with Newcrest Mining down 3.2 per cent and Evolution recovering late, to be only 1.4 per cent lower at the close, while diversified miner South32 suffered a 5.1 per cent fall.

Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton recovered from morning losses to close 0.5 per cent and 0.4 per cent higher.

Energy stocks were in retreat, led by a 4.5 per cent slump for Whitehaven, despite the coal miner more than doubling half year profit.

Santos and Oil Search were also also lower, 0.8 per cent and 1.2 per cent each.

In other half-year results, Village Roadshow shares were 5.5 per cent higher at $3.26 after logging a first half profit on the exit of its Singapore cinema business, while wealth manager IOOF reported a 39 per cent fall in half-year profit, its shares down 2.2 per cent at $10.27.

The banking sector was down, with only Commonwealth Bank gaining a slim 16 cents to $74.02 while NAB, Westpac and ANZ were down by 0.3 to 0.8 per cent.

The Australian dollar gained solidly during the session as pressure built on the US dollar which has continues to lose ground against the Japanese Yen.

The local currency was trading at 79.72 US cents at 1700 AEDT, from 79.37 on Thursday.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index ended down five points, or 0.08 per cent, at 5,904.0

* The broader All Ordinaries index was down 3.9 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 6,004.8 points

* The SPI200 futures contract was down five points, or 0.09 per cent, at 5,857.0 points.

* National turnover was 2.6 billion securities traded worth $5.6 billion.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 79.72 US cents, from 79.37 on Thursday

* 84.34 Japanese yen, from 84.55 yen

* 63.52 euro cents, from 63.67 euro cents

* 56.40 British pence, from 56.64 pence

* 107.39 NZ cents, from 107.57 cents


The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEDT was $US1,358.19 per fine ounce, from $US1,354.41 per fine ounce on Thursday.


* CGS 4.50 per cent April 2020, 2.0186pct, from 2.0035pct

* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.8696pct, from 2.8669pct

Sydney Futures Exchange prices:

* March 2018 10-year bond futures contract at 97.08 (implying a yield of 2.92 pct), from 97.085 (2.915pct) on Thursday

* March 2018 3-year bond futures contract at 97.835 (2.165pct), from 97.840 (2.160pct).

(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEDT previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEDT previous local session)