Australian shares edged up on Friday as investors awaited final results of the United Kingdom’s tight elections that could throw British politics into turmoil. The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.2 percent, 8.803 points to 5,685.4 by 0300 GMT, and on track to post its first weekly loss in three weeks. An updated BBC forecast predicted Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives would win 318 of the 650 House of Commons seats, eight short of a majority, while the left-wing opposition Labour Party would take 267 – producing a “hung parliament” and potential deadlock.
“It’s clear that the unexpected result in the UK election (poll) this morning has played some part in investor thinking,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets. “The potential for a hard Brexit has receded and although globally this is unlikely to have a major impact, it is introducing a bit of caution to trading today. Trading volumes are also low as we’re heading into a holiday weekend.”
Australia market will be closed on Monday for a public holiday and will resume trading on Tuesday. Basic material stocks led gains on the benchmark, boosted by gains in copper. BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals rose between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent. Two of the ‘Big 4’ banks gained, as Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp climbed 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.
But the other two, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and National Australia Bank, lost 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively. Industrial stock Transurban Group added 0.7 percent, while Wesfarmers climbed 0.5 percent.
However, declines in energy stocks capped gains as oil prices continued to slide. Woodside Petroleum fell 1.8 percent, while Santos lost 2.5 percent. Shares of telecom stock Telstra fell 0.7 percent which also weighed on the benchmark.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was down 0.3 percent or 19.99 points to 7,438.67. Software firm Xero Ltd and Auckland International Airport were the biggest drags on the index, down 3 percent and 0.5 percent respectively.