Australian stocks rose slightly on support from industrial and energy shares, while healthcare stocks helped New Zealand’s market edge up on Wednesday. The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 9.81 points, or 0.17 percent, to 5,770 by 0214 GMT. Index heavyweight BHP Billiton was the biggest gainer, up half a percent on gains in oil prices.
Oil prices rose on Wednesday, supported by increasing confidence that an OPEC-led production cut aimed at tightening the market would be extended through the rest of 2017 and the first quarter of next year. Other oil majors such as Origin Energy Ltd and Beach Energy Ltd rose marginally, while the broader energy index gained 0.28 percent.
Gains in industrials were led by testing services provider, ALS Ltd, up as much as 17.1 percent to its highest in 2-1/2 years. ALS on Wednesday reported an after tax profit in fiscal 2017, a turnaround from a loss a year ago.
Pallets and container group Brambles Ltd also underpinned gains in industrial stocks, rising to its highest in a week. The financial index was flat on the day, with a slight positive bias. Macquarie Group Ltd was the biggest gainer, up 1 percent to lead the financial sector.
“We’re seeing fairly muted moves in the sector today,” said Chris Weston, an institutional dealer at IG Markets. Three of the ‘Big Four’ were marginally lower, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 0.1 percent.
The banking sector has more downside risks than upside due to stretched valuations, rising cost of funds, low credit growth and the bank tax that is likely to increase over time, Blue Ocean Equities said in a note. Among the losers were gold stocks, which fell nearly 3.5 percent. Newcrest Mining Ltd and Evolution Mining Ltd fell around 3 percent, while Perseus Mining Ltd shed 5 percent.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index climbed 0.15 percent, or 10.81 points, to 7,395.51, led by healthcare companies. Ryman Healthcare Ltd was the top performer on the index, followed by Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp Ltd.
New Zealand posted a monthly trade surplus of NZ$578 million ($405.35 million) in April, data from Statistics New Zealand showed on Wednesday, while the annual deficit was NZ$3.48 billion.