- Australian benchmark index, the ASX200, gained 0.6% to hit a new high of 7,632.8.
- The index ended the week with a 1.2% gain, led by a sustained rally in financial, utilities and telecom stocks.
- Retailer Premier Investment topped the gainer list, while gold miner Chalice Mining emerged as the top loser.
- All 11 sectoral indices ended higher, while health care gained the most.
Australian shares ended at a fresh record high on Friday, driven by a strong rally in the health care sector, which remained the strongest performer of the day. The market discounted COVID-19 concerns as sentiments were boosted by strong corporate earnings.
Benchmark index, the ASX200, added 40.70 points or 0.54% to close at a new record high of 7,628.90 points. The index has posted a fresh closing record for the eight time since the start of August. Early today, the benchmark index opened higher as much as 0.6% to scale a new high of 7,632.8.
Over the last five sessions, the ASX 200 gained 1.20%, led by a sustained rally in financial, utilities and telecom stocks.
Among individual stocks, retail fashion chain operator Premier Investment (ASX:PMV) topped the gainer list on the ASX by climbing 4.9%. Some of the other notable gainers were industrial services provider Downer EDI (ASX: DOW), gaming firm Star Entertainment (ASX:SGR) and energy firm AGL Energy (ASX:AGL).
On the flip side, gold miner Chalice Mining (ASX:CHN) emerged as the worst performer with a 5.2% loss. Some of the other top laggards were miner Orocobre (ASX: ORE), insurance firm Suncorp Group (ASX: SUN), payment solutions firm EML Payments (ASX:EML) and Lithium miner Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS).
Here’s how the sectoral indices performed today
The equity market witnessed broad-based buying as all the 11 sectoral indices ended in green. The health care sector rose the most and settled with a 2% gain, followed by utilities and consumer discretionary, which rallied over 1%. Some of the other notable gainers were consumer staples, industrial, tech and energy.
In the health care space, export-reliant domestic health stocks gained as the US dollar surged to a 4-month high. Sector heavyweight CSL (ASX:CSL) and Polynovo (ASX:PNV) gained the most. ASX-listed shares of New Zealand-based Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp and Pro Medicus Ltd also closed higher.
Moving on to the banking space, three of big four lenders - Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC), Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ASX:ANZ) and National Australia Bank Limited (ASX:NAB) – ended higher. Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) extended fall for the second session as investors resorted to profit booking after it recorded strong earnings in the June quarter.
In the material space, index heavyweights BHP Group (ASX:BHP), Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) and Pilbara Minerals were among top losers. The sell-off in mining stocks was attributed to a fall in iron ore prices, which fell overnight on concerns over steel output controls in China and signs of economic slowdown in the world's top metal consumer.
Meanwhile, gold stocks witnessed a surge in buying, owing to a rise in gold prices. Gold prices traded marginally above the key US$1,750 mark after expectations of an early taper by the Reserve eased, counterbalancing stronger dollar and yields. The sectoral leaders De Grey Mining (ASX:DEG), Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) and Ramelius (ASX:RMS) ended higher.
Asian shares extend fall
The Asian markets extended a fall on Friday, ignoring firm cues from Wall Street. Investors remained concerned about new regulatory crackdowns in China, while the rising Delta variant in the region also dragged markets.
China’s Shanghai Composite was down 0.25%, while Japan’s Nikkei was trading flat, paring early losses. South Korea’s KOSPI declined the most in the region, falling 1.4% with shares of firms related to conglomerate Samsung falling after the firm’s heir was released from prison.
In a similar trend, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.7%, while Taiwan’s Weighted Stock Index slipped over 1%.
Bucking the trend, India’s BSE Sensex gained 0.5% in the opening trade.
Moving on from Asia to the US now, Wall Street closed on a positive note on Thursday. The Dow Jones and the S&P 500 again shot up higher and made a record closing for a third consecutive day on Thursday, led by tech stocks.
Bitcoin, Ether edge higher
The cryptocurrencies edged higher during Asian trading hours on Friday, with major coins such as Bitcoin, Ether, XRP, Dogecoin flashing in green.
Bitcoin, the world's largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation, traded flat at around US$45K levels.
Ether, the world’s second-largest crypto also rose marginally above US$3,000 mark. The coin witnessed strong buying last week after a software upgrade. The Ethereum blockchain network updated its software, called the London hard fork, which included a fee-reduction feature.
In a similar trend, other digital currencies such as Dogecoin, XRP and Cardano were also trading higher.