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Australian Market Modestly Higher

The Australian stock market is higher on Monday despite the weak cues from Wall Street Friday, as investors remained optimistic that the U.S. and China will be able to resolve their trade differences.

Nevertheless, gains are modest as investors looked ahead to China's trade data for December due later in the day. Mining stocks and banks are higher, offsetting weakness in oil stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 11.70 points or 0.20 percent to 5,786.30, after rising to a high of 5,798.10 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 12.50 points or 0.21 percent to 5,847.30. Australian stocks closed modestly lower on Friday.

The major miners are modestly higher, reflecting an increase in copper and other industrial metal prices. BHP Group is adding 0.3 percent, while Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are up 0.1 percent each.

The big four banks are also mostly higher. ANZ Banking, Westpac and National Australia Bank are advancing in a range of 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is edging down 0.1 percent.

Meanwhile, oil stocks are weak after a nearly 2 percent fall in crude oil prices. Santos and Oil Search are declining almost 1 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum is losing 0.5 percent.

Among gold miners, Evolution Mining is lower by 0.3 percent and Newcrest Mining is edging down 0.1 percent despite a modest increase in gold prices.

Wesfarmers' shares are losing almost 2 percent after the retail giant announced a weak Christmas for Kmart. The company also said it expects to report earnings of between A$385 million and $400 million when it reports half-year results in February, including a one-off gain of A$2.1 billion to A$2.3 billion from the demerger of its Coles supermarket division.

On the economic front, Australia will see December results for the inflation forecast from TD Securities and the Melbourne Institute.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7203, down from $0.7216 on Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed lower on Friday, partly due to profit taking, with traders cashing in on the gains seen over the five-session winning streak. Concerns about the ongoing government shutdown and skepticism about a potential trade deal between the U.S. and China also weighed on the markets.

While the Nasdaq fell 14.59 points or 0.2 percent to 6,971.48, the Dow and the S&P 500 both edged down by less than a tenth of a percent. The Dow dipped 5.97 points to 23,995.95 and the S&P 500 slipped 0.38 points to 2,596.26.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on Friday. While the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.5 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index dropped by 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices fell on Friday amid worries about a global economic slowdown. WTI crude for February delivery slid $1 or 1.9 percent to $51.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after rising to a five-week high on Thursday.

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