Business

ASX shakes off global jitters to post gains

Australian shares defied a miserable night on global markets and enjoyed broad-based gains through most of Thursday's session, led by telco and energy stocks, before fading away in the afternoon.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index and the broader All Ordinaries Index each closed higher by 0.4 per cent to 4864.0 points and 4917.6 points, respectively.  

"The market seems to be cycling rather aimlessly at the moment," Credit Suisse strategist Damien Boey said. "The US market has been bucking the Asian trend which is calming down slightly."

Wall Street sustained heavy losses overnight as the US oil price plunged. Through Thursday, the international benchmark Brent crude lost more ground and broke through $US28 to trade around $US27.81 in late trade. 

Despite rock bottom oil prices, the ASX 200 index was buoyed by materials and energy stocks as investors sensed an end to the commodities rout.

"If you look at banks and miners as an option on the underlying commodity price, then miners are performing better because investors are wondering, can oil really fall much more than the 20s?" Mr Boey said. 

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Resources giant BHP Billiton traded strongly for most of the day before losing momentum in the afternoon and closing down 0.1 per cent to $14.20, though main rival Rio Tinto closed up 1.6 per cent to $38.36. Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group fell 1 per cent to $1.45.

Australia's biggest oil producer Woodside Petroleum flagged writedowns of as much as $US1.2 billion ($1.7 billion) after cutting its assumptions on oil prices. The stock fell 1.5 per cent to close at $25.

Shares in Origin Energy surged after the company reassured the market it was not in danger of breaching its lending covenants. Shares closed up 6.7 per cent at $3.69.

BHP spin-off South32 announced it had cut its minimal debt load, in stark contrast to the rest of the industry. Shares closed flat at 89 cents, though the stock is heavily down since listing in May last year at $2.13.

Iron ore's winning streak was cut short on Wednesday night, after the spot price was down 2.7 per cent to $US41.61 a tonne.

Gold and copper producer Oz Minerals smashed its production guidance and traded up 6.6 per cent to $3.73.

Services firm Broadspectrum told shareholders to reject a $715 million takeover bid from Ferrovial, saying the offer was "opportunistic". Shares were down 1.2 per cent to $1.24. 

The big four banks were the biggest drags on the market, with the sector down 0. 4 per cent overall.  

"Signs are pointing to a housing cycle that's peaked so the banks are dragging," Mr Boey said. "Building approvals are down, and seasonal house pricing is flat to down. The outlook for the domestic economy is weighing on the banks. 

Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 1 per cent to $76.81, while Westpac Banking Corporation 0.6 per cent to $29.89. ANZ Banking Group 1.7 per cent to $23.11, while National Australia Bank was up 0.3 per cent to $26.82.

Telstra performed strongly throughout Thursday after announcing it is expanding its cloud services with the acquisition of Australian-based company Kloud.  Telstra rose 2.6 per cent to $5.52.

And CSL closed at an all-time high, trading up 1.9 per cent to $107.57 as investors look at stocks safely operating in US dollars. 

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