Australian shares ended steady on Monday as financials and telecom stocks held on to their gains, while Fairfax Media soared on a takeover bid. A weak materials sector pressured the S&P/ASX 200 index, which closed 0.03 percent, or 1.5 points, higher at 5838.402. The benchmark fell 0.7 percent on Friday. The “Big 4″ banks gained between 0.7 to 1 percent, led by Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the top gainer on the benchmark.
The gains for the financial sector came even as bank stocks on Wall Street were weighed down by soft retail sales and monthly inflation data on Friday. Fairfax Media Ltd jumped as much as 8.4 percent to its highest in over 6 years after the newspaper publisher received a revised cash bid led by U.S. buyout firm TPG Capital Management for all of its shares.
All sectors except the financial and telecom stocks were in the red with mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, both around 1 percent lower, weighing on the index the most.”Iron ore has come off a long way over the past month and that’s continuing to undermine the basic materials sector,” said Damien Hennessy of Heuristic Investment Systems.
Iron ore dropped for the seventh week to near four-month lows, dragged down by worries over weak demand in China.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ticked 0.3 percent, or 22.44 points, lower to finish the session at 7429.94, with a surge in the country’s retail sales in April doing little to limit the downside. A2 Milk, the biggest decliner in the benchmark, fell 3.5 percent, while Trustpower Ltd was the biggest gainer, rising 1.6 percent to an all time high.