Australian shares have closed higher on Thursday, with banks and miners leading strength though broader market gains were checked by generally subdued regional markets amid trade war worries.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index close up 17.6 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 6,262.7 points, while the broader All Ordinaries gained 25.9 points, or 0.41 per cent, to 6,355.0 points.
Sentiment was still fragile in financial markets amid the US-driven international trade dispute, which has entangled Europe to Mexico to China – Australia’s biggest export market.
Materials are particularly vulnerable to any sharp slowdown in China as the world’s second-biggest economy sucks up a major portion of Australian commodities and is an important driver of its growth.
On Thursday, miners advanced with Rio Tinto and South32 rising 1.4 per cent and 2 per cent to $80.62 and $3.65 respectively.
South32 reported that it beat its coking coal output guidance for fiscal 2018, despite also announcing a 24 per cent drop in its fourth quarter output.
BHP edged slightly higher, a day after it drove the benchmark up on the back of record annual iron ore output.
In local companies news, shares in Afterpay Touch soared to a new high after the buy now-pay later service provider flagged expected 2017/18 earnings of $33 million to $34 million, up from $6 million a year ago.
Afterpay shares gained $2.61, or 23.9 per cent, to close at a new all-time high of $13.53.
Data earlier in the day showing solid Australian jobs growth didn’t appear to have a direct impact on the market, though it did provide an encouraging backdrop for an economy facing some headwinds, including a slowing housing market and a wobbly retail sector.
The main financial index rose 0.4 per cent, with Commonwealth Bank and ANZ giving the biggest boosts.
On the downside, gold stocks extended their declines for a fifth session as the yellow metal hovered around one-year lows, as a stronger dollar and rising US interest rates pull investors away from the traditional safe haven.
“Forget all else, the US dollar remains the single dominant factor for gold prices today. Traders are increasing gold shorts despite uncertainty over the trade war, wholly emboldened by the US dollar’s ongoing strength,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at Oanda.
The gold index fell 1.5 per cent to its lowest in over seven weeks led by Evolution Mining, which slid 4.4 per cent to $3.01.
The Australian economy added over 50,000 new jobs in June, and while the data did not disappoint, a rise in the participation rate to 65.7 per cent curbed much needed wage gains and held the unemployment rate steady at 5.4 per cent.
The Australian dollar was at 73.98 US cents at 1700 AEST, having traded as high as 74.33 US cents during the session.
ON THE ASX
* The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 17.6 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 6,262.7 points
* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 25.9 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 6,355.0 points
* The SPI200 futures contract was up 18 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 6,212 points at 1630 AEST
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEST:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 73.98 US cents, from 73.50 US cents on Wednesday
* 83.48 Japanese yen, from 83.11
* 63.66 euro cents, from 63.20
* 56.71 British pence, from 56.15
* 109.35 NZ cents, from 108.88
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEST was $US1,223.72 per fine ounce, from $US1,224.19 per fine ounce on Wednesday.