Headline indices of the Australian financial market were lower after erasing early gains on Thursday, 14 February 2019, as losses in lenders and scandal-hit wealth manager AMP overshadowed strength in miners and oil producers. Around late afternoon, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index dropped 4.67 points, or 0.08%, to 6,058.90 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index shed 3.08 points, or 0.05%, to 6,137.10 points.
Market commenced trading in firm footing on the back of optimism for progress in the latest Sino-U. S. tariff talks after US president Trump said on Wednesday the talks with China were going along very well as they try to resolve the tariff dispute ahead of a March 1 deadline. Sentiments also bolstered on speculation the Federal Reserve could stay patient on rates after data showing U. S. consumer price inflation rose at the slowest annual pace in more than 1-1/2 years and hope another U. S. government shutdown would be averted as President Donald Trump edged toward backing a deal in Congress on funding for a border barrier. However, market failed to hold early momentum on caution ahead of Chinese trade data which expected to show further falls in exports and imports.
Materials and resources stocks were up, following upbeat earnings and higher commodities prices.
Index heavyweight Santos was up 2.3%. Australia's top oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum rose as much as 2.3% after surprised investors with a fat dividend after reporting a 36-percent% rise in annual profit. Mining giant BHP Group rose 1.7% as copper prices rose on easing trade tensions. Rival Rio Tinto was 1.5% higher.
Shares of South32 rose as much as 3.8%, after reported a 17% rise in first-half profit to US$635 million, thanks to firmer commodity prices. South32 (S32) has raised its mid-year payout and said it will hand out another special dividend.
The broader finance sector was lower, with Commonwealth Bank down 0.45% and Westpac down 0.08%, but ANZ was up 0.15%, NAB up 0.27%. Suncorp, which reported its first-half profit almost halved to $250 million, was down 3.93%.
AMP (AMP) was down 4.1% to $2.335 after the fund manager reported a 97% plunge in full year profit to $28 million, missing its own guidance. AMP also sharply cut its final dividend to 4.0 cents, down from 14.5 cents a year earlier.
Among individual stocks, Healthscope was down 0.2% after its final first-half profit as a standalone company soared to $236.6 million on the sale of its Asian pathology business.
CURRENCY: Australian Dollar appreciated against greenback and against a basket of other peers on Thursday. The Aussie dollar is buying 70.95 US cents, from 71.30 US cents on Wednesday.
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