Australian shares have closed higher, led by a surge of support for consumer-related stocks following Wesfarmers’ announcement of plans to spin off supermarket giant Coles.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index gained 0.48 per cent to close at 5,949.4 points on Friday, with most sectors in the green but the market weighed down by weakness among bank stocks.
Citi retail analyst Bryan Raymond said the move to spin off Coles was positive for Wesfarmers shareholders, rival Woolworths and the broader sector.
The supermarket sector would benefit with Coles unlikely to embark on aggressive changes to its earnings and pricing during the demerger, he said, while Wesfarmers shareholders also stood to gain.
“Shareholders can now gain exposure to a Wesfarmers business primarily driven by Bunnings in Australia and New Zealand,” Mr Raymond said in a note.
Wesfarmers gained $2.60, or 6.3 per cent, at $43.80, while Woolworths was up 33 cents, or 1.3 per cent, at $26.78.
The sector’s big loser was IGA supplier Metcash, which lost 5.4 per cent to $3.00 on news that supermarkets chief executive Steve Cain would lead the demerged Coles.
The big banks all lost ground on the last day of the opening week of the Royal Commission hearings.
ANZ fell just 0.07 per cent, Commonwealth Bank lost 0.6 per cent, while the National Australia Bank, and Westpac lost 0.5 per cent each.
Falls in iron ore and gains in copper left the top miners mixed, with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto up 1.0 per cent to $29.16 and 0.7 per cent $76.62, while Fortescue Metals was steady at $4.78.
Encouragement out of the International Energy Agency that oil demand could pick up helped Origin, up by 2.1 per cent to $8.84, Santos Oil was flat at $4.89, but Woodside Petroleum fell 0.2 per cent, to $28.56.
In other company news, healthy snack company Freedom Foods entered a trading halt as it seeks to raise $200 million to build the capacity needed to crack lucrative Asian markets.
And shares in Premier Investments gained 6.1 per cent to $15.27 after the Solomon Lew-led company lifted first-half net profit 9.4 per cent thanks largely to its core brands Smiggle and Peter Alexander.
Meanwhile, the Australian dollar has fallen below 78 US cents on the risk-off mood darkening regional currencies, a strengthening US dollar and falls in key commodities.
At 1700 AEDT on Friday, the local currency was worth 77.93 US cents, down from 78.68 US cents on Thursday.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index ended Friday up 28.5 points, or 0.48 per cent, at 5,949.4 point
* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 28.2 points, or 0.47 per cent, at 6,055.8 points
* The SPI200 futures contract was up 35 points, or 0.59 per cent, at 5,946.0 points.
* National turnover was four billion securities traded worth $9.6 billion
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEDT:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 77.93 US cents, from 78.68 on Thursday
* 82.52 Japanese yen, from 83.35 yen
* 63.31 euro cents, from 63.59 euro cents
* 55.93 British pence, from 56.31 pence
* 107.54 NZ cents, from 107.44 cents
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEDT was $US1,317.10 per fine ounce, from $US1,326.05 per fine ounce on Thursday.
BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:
* CGS 4.50pct April 2020, 1.9616pct, from 1.9616pct on Thursday
* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.6466pct, from 2.6624pct
Sydney Futures Exchange prices:
* June 2018 10-year bond futures contract was 97.290 (implying a yield of 2.710pct), from 97.275 (2.725pct) on Thursday
* June 2018 3-year bond futures contract was 97.885 (2.115pct), from 97.890 (2.110pct), the previous session.
(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEDT previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEDT previous local session)