Australian shares gain again, close at two-week high

·3-min read
Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS

The local share market has gained ground for a second straight day amid optimism over both the state of the global economy and talks to raise the US debt ceiling.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed Friday up 42.7 points, or 0.59 per cent, at 7,279.5, in its highest close since May 5.

The broader All Ordinaries gained 44.5 points, or 0.6 per cent, at 7,471.5.

A better-than-expected March quarter earnings report from Walmart overnight helped boost sentiment, suggesting consumer power was resilient despite economic headwinds, said CMC Markets analyst Tina Teng.

Weekly US jobless claims were also lower than expected, in a sign of strength from the world's biggest economy.

For the week, the ASX200 gained 22.8 points, or 0.31 per cent, for its second straight week of gains.

AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said share markets globally had been helped by optimism that a US debt deal would be soon reached, and economic data holding up.

"While shares could have a further tactical bounce if there is quick US debt ceiling deal, they continue to look vulnerable over the next few months," he wrote in a note.

A deal is no sure thing either, he added, putting the risk of default at about 15 per cent.

The ASX tech sector was the biggest gainer on Friday, climbing 2.2 per cent after a strong session overnight on the Nasdaq.

Xero advanced another 5.4 per cent to an over one-year high of $108 following Thursday's strong earnings report, while Wisetech Global rose 0.7 per cent to $71.20.

Financials were the second-best performer, collectively climbing 1.5 per cent as all of the Big Four retail banks had a solid day.

ANZ rose 1.4 per cent to $23.97, Westpac climbed 1.3 per cent to $21.23, CBA added 1.8 per cent to $99.80 and NAB advanced 1.5 per cent to $26.80.

Insurance companies performed even better, with IAG climbing 4.6 per cent to $5.19 and Suncorp rising 1.9 per cent to $12.62.

The heavyweight mining sector was mostly in the red, however, with losses for both iron ore miners and goldminers.

BHP fell 0.2 per cent to $44.16, Rio Tinto dropped 0.5 per cent to $109.42 and Fortescue Metals was basically flat at $20.52, while in the gold sector Newcrest dropped 1.0 per cent to $13.31 and Evolution fell 1.6 per cent to $3.72.

Elsewhere, Austal had soared 25.1 per cent to a five-month high of $1.995 after the Tasmanian shipbuilder's US subsidiary was awarded a new contract worth up to $3.2 billion to design and potentially build seven new surveillance ships for the US Navy.

"The T-AGOS contract is a clear acknowledgement of Austal's capability in steel naval shipbuilding," said Austal CEO Paddy Gregg.

The Australian dollar was buying 66.47 US cents, from 66.38 US cents at Thursday's ASX close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished on Friday up 42.7 points, or 0.59 per cent, at 7,279.5.

* The broader All Ordinaries added 44.5 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 7,471.5.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 66.47 US cents, from 66.38 US cents at Thursday's ASX close

* 91.78 Japanese yen, from 91.32 Japanese yen

* 61.69 Euro cents, from 61.29 Euro cents

* 53.56 British pence, from 53.25 British pence

* 106.15 NZ cents, from 106.13 NZ cents