Materials drag Aussie shares lower, offset record CSL gains; NZ rises

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Australian shares ended slightly lower on Friday as weak commodity prices hit material stocks, tempering a rally in the healthcare sector which was buoyed by shares of biotherapeutics firm CSL Ltd after an earnings upgrade.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.1 per cent, or 6.9 points, lower at 6,087.4. The benchmark fell 0.5 per cent this week, ending a six-week winning streak.

The healthcare index closed at a record-high led by CSL Ltd, which jumped 4.1 per cent to an all-time high, after the biotherapeutics company raised its full-year net profit for the second time this year, underpinned by a severe influenza season in northern hemisphere.

The healthcare index rose 2.4 per cent over the week.

Weak commodity prices weighed on material stocks, with major miners BHP and Rio Tinto, down over 1 per cent each, among the biggest decliners on the benchmark.

Chinese steel futures fell to a one-week low on Friday, with supply rising and concerns of seasonal recovery in demand ending soon.

In the financial sector, lender Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rose 0.6 per cent while its ‘Big Four’ peers fell between 0.7 per cent to 0.9 per cent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.6 per cent, or 53.95 points, to 8,657.33. However, the benchmark fell slightly on the week after rising for the past three.

Auckland International Airport was the biggest gainer on the index, rising 2.4 per cent to a near nine month closing high.

Ryman Healthcare closed 2.5 per cent higher, after reporting a 14 per cent jump in its full-year profit.

Source: Economic Times