Banking and mining stocks have lifted the Australian share market higher, but gains were limited by a slump from the telco sector after the competition watchdog raised concerns over TPG’s planned merger with Vodafone Australia.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 8.1 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 5661.6 on Thursday, and the broader All Ordinaries also rose 0.14 per cent.
Sentiment was boosted by news China bought more than 1.5 million tonnes of US soybeans, in the first major US soybean purchases in more than six months.
This combined with China moving to cut tariffs on automobiles encouraged investors to take a risk-on approach to trading, Bell Direct equities analyst Julia Lee said.
“The market’s mostly positive and certainly it’s been the growth areas of the market that have been gaining ground and we’re seeing the same around the region as well,” she told AAP.
The major miners shouldered much of the heavy lifting and ensured the local market was trending upwards.
BHP climbed 1.9 per cent to $32.81 and Rio Tinto was up 2.2 per cent to $75.69 on higher iron ore prices.
South32 and Fortescue rose 2.2 and 1.5 per cent respectively, while gold miners were subdued despite precious metals prices climbing overnight, with St Barbara and Regis the biggest losers, down 4.9 and three per cent.
The financials were buoyant with ANZ the best of the big four lenders, gaining 1.2 per cent to $25.49, while Westpac was the only one to lose ground, driven by Wednesday’s first strike from shareholders against executive pay. It fell 0.1 per cent to $25.44.
The telco sector was the heaviest drag on the indices as the the ACCC threw doubt on TPG and Vodafone Australia’s proposed merger into a single $15 billion company, fearing the move could mean higher mobile prices for consumers.
TPG shares were 16.7 per cent lower at $6.45, while Hutchison Telecommunications – which owns a 50 per cent stake in Vodafone Australia – was 21.4 per cent lower at 11 cents.
Benchmark Telstra lost 3.3 per cent to $2.93.
The energy sector was flat despite a four per cent jump from Whitehaven Coal, while health care benchmark CSL was down 0.6 per cent, dragging the sector slightly lower.
The Australian dollar held near a one-week high as riskier assets were boosted by signs of the progress in US-China trade relations.
The Aussie was buying 72.29 US cents at 1630 AEDT, up from 72.04 on Wednesday.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 8.1 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 5661.6
* The All Ordinaries was up eight points, or 0.14 per cent, at 5735.3
* At 1630 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was down eight points, or 0.14 per cent, at 5647
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 72.29 US cents, from 72.04 US cents on Wednesday
* 82.03 Japanese yen, from 81.82
* 63.61 euro cents, from 63.66
* 57.30 British pence, from 57.65
* 105.32 NZ cents, from 104.76
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1630 AEDT was $US1244.7 per fine ounce, from $US1244.7 on Wednesday.