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Australian shares suffer third straight week of losses

News Team

The local share market has finished higher on weak economic data supporting a pause in US rate hikes, but the gains weren’t enough to keep the bourse out of the red for the week.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed Friday up 18.8 points, or 0.32 percent, 7,122.5, while the broader All Ordinaries rose 24 points, or 0.33 percent, to 7,312.3.

For the week the ASX200 closed down 22.6 points, or 0.32 percent, as it headed into the long holiday weekend.

The gains on Friday came after the US Labor Department reported overnight that first-time unemployment claims rose sharply last week, in a possible sign that months of interest rate hikes were softening the US labour market.

There were 261,000 jobless claims for the week, well above estimates and 28,000 more than the previous week – the highest number of claims in a year and a half.

The rise in jobless claims increased expectations the US Federal Reserve would leave interest rates on hold at its next meeting, the results of which will be announced during Australia’s pre-dawn hours on Thursday. 

“It’s possible the Memorial Day holiday last Monday has distorted the figures, though the numbers are certainly consistent the normally lagged impact of other lead indicators of the labour market such as Challenger lay-offs,” NAB head of FX strategy Ray Attrill wrote in a note, referring to a monthly job report from US outplacement firm Challenger, Grey & Christmas.

Futures markets on Friday were pricing in just a one-in-four chance of a rate hike, down from a roughly one-in-three chance on Thursday.

Royal Bank of Canada FX strategist Alvin Tan said recent US economic data had been “rather mixed lately” which sets up an interesting Fed meeting, that will also involve the quarterly release of new “dot plots” forecasting how US rates might rise in future.

The Australian dollar rose on Friday above 67 US cents for the first time in four weeks as the greenback faded against other currencies in expectation of a US rate-hike pause.

The ASX’s 11 official sectors finished mixed, with tech the biggest gainer, climbing 1.6 percent following a similar outperformance from the Nasdaq overnight.

Xero gained 2.7 percent, Altium added 1.4 percent and Wisetech Global climbed 2.6 percent.

The Big Four banks were mostly higher, with ANZ the biggest gainer, rising 0.8 percent to $22.85.

NAB climbed 0.2 percent to $25.20 and Westpac added 0.3 percent to $20.25, while CBA edged 0.1 percent lower to $95.80.

In the heavyweight mining sector, BHP rose 1.3 percent to $44.72, Fortescue climbed 1.4 percent to $20.79 and Rio Tinto added 0.5 percent to $114.58.

Nickel Industries soared 13.3 percent to a seven-week high of 98c after Indonesian heavy equipment giant PT United Tractors agreed to invest $943 million to acquire a nearly 20 percent stake in the company.

Managing director Justin Werner said the partnership with one of Indonesia’s largest public companies was a significant step forward for Nickel Industries – which has principal operations in Indonesia – becoming a leading global nickel producer.   

Imugene advanced 7.5 percent to 10c after the Sydney immuno-oncology company announced its early-stage trial evaluating the safety of its cancer-fighting virus injection was progressing to its next cohort of three to six patients.

Eventually, the study aims to enroll up to 100 Australian and American patients with metastatic or advanced solid tumors that haven’t been successfully treated with two lines of standard cancer therapies.

Dexus fell 1.4 percent to $8.14 as the office tower owner announced it had sold a prime 26-level Sydney office tower at 44 Market Street for $393.1 million, 17.2 percent below its December 2022 valuation, in another sign that working-from-home trend is taking a toll on the price of office space.

The Aussie was buying 67.14 US cents, from 66.66 US cents at Thursday’s ASX close.

Source: https://www.sheppnews.com.au/aap-finance/australian-shares-suffer-third-straight-week-of-losses/