Financials stocks boost Australia benchmark; NZ inches down
* All constituents of financial index gain
* Stronger Aussie dollar dents healthcare stocks
* Gold stocks fall on weak prices
By Aby Jose Koilparambil
April 18 (Reuters) - Australia shares rose on Thursday,
boosted by financial stocks and positive economic data from
China that allayed global growth worries, but broader gains were
capped by losses in healthcare stocks, which tracked their Wall
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 percent or 21.4
points to 6,277.30 by 0054 GMT and looked set for a weekly gain
of 0.4 percent for the week. Australian markets will be closed
on Friday and Monday for the Easter holidays.
China, the world's second-largest economy and Australia's
biggest trade partner, on Wednesday reported first-quarter GDP
year-on-year growth of 6.4 percent, beating expectations of a
Financials, the largest sector in the benchmark,
advanced up to 0.8 percent to a near six-week high. The sector
index was set for its fifth consecutive session of gains.
The 'Big Four' banks tacked between 0.2 percent and 0.6
"There is a growing perception now that the next move in
Australian dollar could be up rather than down and that is
attracting carry traders to buy the currency. One of the key
areas of investment for them are banks," said Michael McCarthy,
chief market strategist at CMC Markets.
"The cash component of dividends in the financial sector is
looking pretty attractive at the moment. The support (in market
today) appears to be based a lot on the Australian dollar,"
However, healthcare stocks came under pressure, with the
sub-index dropping as much as 1.3 percent on a stronger
Aussie dollar and also tracking their U.S. peers.
On Wall Street, healthcare stocks tumbled on regulatory
worries, with the likes of UnitedHealth Group Inc,
Pfizer Inc, Merck & Co Inc and Abbott
Laboratories all featuring among the biggest drags on
the broader S&P 500.
Gold stocks also felt the heat as the bullion fell, holding
near the 2019 lows touched in the previous session, as the
upbeat China data encouraged investors to move into riskier
However, the metals and mining index held firm,
thanks to gains in index heavyweights and diversified miners BHP
Group Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd as the duo put on
0.4 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively, after deep losses in
the previous session.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50
index inched down 0.1 percent to 9,974.96.
Tourism Holdings Ltd was the top percentage loser
on the benchmark, falling as much as about 25 percent to its
lowest since June 2017 after the firm cut its profit guidance,
citing a weak U.S. market.
(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by
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