Australian shares have finished flat after a yo-yo final trading session of the week, which saw a retreat among the banks outweigh healthcare sector gains.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 dived in early trade before recovering throughout the afternoon and closing up 0.1 points, or zero per cent, at 6,268.4 points, while the broader All Ordinaries rose 2.1 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 6,351.9 points.
CommSec market analyst Tom Piotrowski said bank stocks have had a volatile week and their retreat on Friday was the main reason the benchmark was flat.
“The discussion around banks of course has been the impact of the decline in demand for credit on their growth prospects,” he said.
ANZ led the big banks’ losses, slumping 0.7 per cent to $29.01, while Westpac retreated 0.5 per cent to $29.60, the Commonwealth Bank lost 0.5 per cent to $74.85 and NAB was down 0.4 per cent to $28.04.
Healthcare stocks were the stand-out performers as the sector, which has significant exposure to the US market, benefits from a lower Aussie dollar.
Vaccines and blood products supplier CSL jumped two per cent to $204.56 and hearing implant developer Cochlear soared 3.2 per cent to $205.32.
Major mining stocks lost ground despite iron ore prices climbing overnight, with BHP Billiton dropping 0.7 per cent to $33.33 and rival Rio Tinto falling 0.14 per cent to $79.84 after announcing it had signed a heads of agreement to sell its interest in Indonesia’s Grasberg – the world’s second biggest copper mine – for $US3.5 billion.
The energy sector was mixed amid firming oil prices, with Woodside Petroleum sliding 0.5 per cent to $35.63 and Santos falling 0.8 per cent to $6.16, while Origin Energy advanced 3.1 per cent to $9.72.
Oil refiner and marketer Viva Energy closed down four per cent at $2.40 on its ASX debut after raising about $2.6 billion in Australia’s biggest initial public offering in nearly four years.
Mr Piotrowski said the Aussie dollar firmed after trade figures showed in annual terms, China’s imports of Australian goods were up by 12 per cent.
The Australian dollar was trading at 74.03 US cents US cents at 1700 AEST on Friday from 73.84 US cents on Thursday.
ON THE ASX
* The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.1 points, or zero per cent, at 6,268.4 points
* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 2.1 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 6,351.9 points
* The SPI200 futures contract was steady at 6,220 points at 1700 AEST
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEST:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 74.03 US cents, from 73.87 on Thursday
* 83.37 Japanese yen, from 82.93
* 63.59 euro cents, from 63.24
* 56.27 British pence, from 55.89
* 109.58 NZ cents, from 109.15
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEST was $US1,244.4 per fine ounce, from $US1,247.01 per fine ounce on Thursday.