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Australian shares jump 1.1%

Australian shares jump 1.1%

CANBERRA: Australian shares jumped 1.1 percent on Friday, nudging into positive territory for the week as hopes of more stimulus in Europe and rebounds in prices of iron ore and oil buoyed sentiment. In its first two-day winning streak for the year, the S&P/ASX 200 index gained 52.0 points, or 1.1 percent, to finish at 4,916.0, a rise of 0.5 percent for the week. The benchmark is down 7.2 percent so in 2016.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 40.7 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 6,121.6, down 0.8 percent for the week. Fund managers and dealers said the gains were mostly driven by comments from the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi that raised hopes of further stimulus and a rebound in oil prices from 12-year lows which prompted some short-covering, but they questioned how sustained the rally would be.

“There’s a bit of value coming in…but I don’t see a sharp recovery out there,” said Sean Fenton, a portfolio manager at Tribeca Investments. Gains in major miners on the London market flowed through to the ASX, helped by a halt on iron ore exports from one of Brazil’s biggest ports, which drove iron ore futures prices up 2 percent.

Top miner BHP Billiton jumped 8 percent, on track for its biggest gain since June 2009, while Rio Tinto, Australia’s top iron ore producer, rose 4 percent. Fortescue Metals Group rose 7.6 percent and Atlas Iron soared 15 percent. The market’s top performer was Treasury Wine Estates, which soared 15 percent to a record high of A$9.07 after it said sales to China had been strong ahead of Chinese New Year.

Shares in Medibank Private also soared to a record high, up as much as 21 percent, after upgrading its forecast for full-year earnings from its health insurance business by more than 25 percent. “There was a bit of positive momentum in the market on the back of that, but it’s hard to see more catalysts next week,” said Chris Tynan, a dealer at Arnhem Investment Management.

New Zealand’s telecommunications company Spark NZ, up 2.3 percent, was one of the most active stocks after a company called Zero Commission said it was going to make a discounted offer for shares in Spark to its smallest shareholders. Spark told investors it did not endorse the offer.