The Australian share market finished higher for fourth second session on Friday, 14 February 2020, thanks to better-than-expected corporate earnings. However, market gains caped amid lingering worries over the economic ramifications of the new coronavirus. At closing bell, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index advanced 26.98 points, or 0.38%, to 7,130.21, while the broader All Ordinaries added 22.50 points, or 0.31%, to 7,227.12.
Investors continued to watch for developments on the coronavirus outbreak following Thursday's spike in the number of cases reported after Hubei changed the way cases are diagnosed. On Friday, the province reported an additional 116 deaths and 4,823 new confirmed cases as of the end of Feb. 13.
Financials were boosted by big moves for the major banks. While the big four all rose, National Bank (NAB) was the best today with a gain of 3.25%. Australia's third largest bank beat expectations yesterday with a quarterly update and has received several broker upgrades in response.
Commonwealth Bank (CBA) was the next best advancing 2.5%. CBA beat expectations when it released first half profit numbers on Wednesday. For the week, NAB rose 5.5% and CBA jumped 7.3%.
Utilities also outperformed, boosted by a 2.3% gain for AGL Energy. The electricity and gas provider released an upbeat first half profit result yesterday and has also since received several broker upgrades, leading the stock to rise ~6% in the last two sessions.
The energy sector was the main laggard despite a lift in global oil prices overnight. Woodside (WPL) fell most, down 2.7% after yesterday announcing a fall in full year net profit after tax (NPAT) to US$343 million from over US$1.36 billion in 2018. Materials also fell with gold miners led lower by a 3.6% slide in Newcrest Mining (NCM).
CURRENCY NEWS: The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6722 after touching an earlier low of $0.6707.
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