Australian stocks pull back for Christmas on a positive note


Australian stocks closed higher in a cut-short holiday-based trade on Friday as fears over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus faded as wealth manager AMP Ltd rallied after divesting its debt platform infrastructure.

The S & P / ASX 200 index finished up 0.4% at 7420.3 points, with the benchmark registering a weekly gain of 1.6%.

Reports have shown COVID-19 antiviral pills from US drugmakers Merck and Pfizer to be effective against the variant, encouraging investors ahead of an extended Christmas weekend in Australia. Markets in Australia and New Zealand will be closed until Tuesday and resume trading on Wednesday.

“The latest studies suggesting a reduction in hospitalizations with the Omicron variant appear to have reduced anxiety from the virus, causing the Santa Gathering to occur,” said Kunal Sawhney, CEO of Kalkine Group.

Meanwhile, Australian authorities said on Friday they would further shorten the interval of a recall to control the record spike in cases stoked by Omicron.

Among stocks and individual sectors, financials rose 0.4%, with the top four banks increasing between 0.1% and 0.6%.

AMP climbed 6.4% to be the first winner in the sub-index and benchmark after announcing the sale of its infrastructure debt division to Ares Management for A $ 428 million ($ 310 million).

The energy sector rose 0.9%, extending gains for the fourth session after an overnight rally in oil prices. Gas producer Santos Ltd gained 2.2%, while oil refiner Viva Energy climbed 1.8%.

Miners jumped 0.5% as iron ore prices rallied, helping the index post a fifth consecutive weekly gain.

Major iron ore group BHP Group rose 0.2%, while smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group rose 0.4%.

Tech stocks reversed Thursday’s losses to end higher, with Novonix Ltd and Afterpay Ltd among the top gainers. For the week, he added 3.5%.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S & P / NZX 50 closed 0.2% higher at 12,888.4 points.


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