Australian stocks rise as Ukraine hopes to improve sentiment; banks shine

  • Financials led gains; tech stocks rise
  • Commodity-related stocks are the biggest drag
  • Ampol up 3% after the sale of a New Zealand petrol unit

March 14 (Reuters) – Australian shares rose more than 1% on Monday, helped by gains in financials and healthcare stocks, as global investor sentiment was boosted by hopes of progress in peace talks between Ukraine and Russia even as the conflict continued to escalate.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index (.AXJO) ended up 1.2% at 7,419.4. The benchmark had fallen 0.9% on Friday, posting its worst weekly performance since Feb. 25.

Even as Russian missiles struck a major Ukrainian base near the border with Poland on Sunday, the two sides showed promising signs for prospects for talks. Read more

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Heightened geopolitical tensions, along with soaring global inflation, have weighed on riskier assets since late February, with markets watching closely for the US Federal Reserve’s next move to rein in rising prices.

The Fed is expected to raise rates by 25 basis points at its meeting later this week, while the Bank of England is expected to raise rates to 0.75% on Thursday.

In Australia, financials (.AXFJ) emerged as the benchmark’s top gainers, rising around 2.5% to their highest level since Feb. 24. The “Big Four” banks rose between 1% and 2%.

“The Australian market seems to have a relief rally for the day and also considering that there is no impetus for the Federal Reserve to change its stance on rate hikes, banks are taking some comfort from this. “, Brad Smoling, Managing Director, Smoling Stockbroking, said.

Tech stocks (.AXIJ) rose 0.6%, with Xero Ltd (XRO.AX) gaining 1.2%, while healthcare stocks (.AXHJ) climbed more than 2%.

Among the losers, miners (.AXMM) fell the most, down 0.7%, as iron ore futures tumbled after COVID-19 cases surged in China, the most world’s largest steel producer, fueling concerns about the economic downturn.

Energy stocks (.AXEJ) reversed to close slightly lower as crude prices fell from multi-year highs, while gold stocks (.AXGD) fell around 0.4% as investors left the metal for riskier assets.

Fuel supplier Ampol Ltd (ALD.AX) rose 3.2% as it sold its New Zealand unit Gull for NZ$572 million ($389.53 million). Read more

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 (.NZ50) index fell around 0.1%, or 16.3 points.

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Reporting by Archishma Iyer in Bangalore; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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