Australian Market Edges Higher


The Australian stock market is edging higher on Monday after a weak start following the mixed cues from Wall Street Friday as investors focused on the U.S.-China trade talks. Gains by oil stocks helped offset weakness in banks and mining stocks.

In late-morning trades, the S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 3.00 points or 0.05 percent to 6,090.40, after touching a low of 6,070.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 4.40 points or 0.07 percent to 6,195.30.

Oil stocks are higher despite crude oil prices edging lower on Friday. Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.3 percent, Oil Search is advancing 0.6 percent and Santos is rising more than 2 percent.

The big four banks are mostly lower as the royal commission into banking practices is due to kick off this week. Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank are down in a range of 0.6 percent to 0.9 percent, while ANZ Banking is edging up less than 0.1 percent.

In the mining sector, BHP Billiton is down 0.2 percent, Rio Tinto is declining 0.6 percent and Fortescue Metals is losing almost 2 percent after a fall in iron ore prices and some base metals.

Gold miners are mixed. Evolution Mining is losing 0.2 percent, while Newcrest Mining is advancing more than 1 percent after gold prices edged higher.

AGL Energy has rejected Alinta Energy's A$250 million offer to buy Liddel Power Station and reiterated its decision to close the plant in 2022. Shares of AGL Energy are rising more than 1 percent.

Shares of Vocus Group are gaining almost 4 percent after the company named former Optus boss Kevin Russell as managing director and chief executive, three months after Geoff Horth resigned.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local unit was trading at US$0.7514, down from US$0.7523 on Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Friday in a lackluster session as traders seemed reluctant to make more significant moves amid a quiet day on the U.S. economic front. Uncertainty about the outcome of the second round of trade talks between the U.S. and China also kept some traders on the sidelines.

The Dow inched up 1.11 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 24,715.09, but the Nasdaq fell 28.13 points or 0.4 percent to 7,354.34 and the S&P 500 dipped 7.16 points or 0.3 percent to 2,712.97.

The major European markets saw modest weakness on Friday. While the German DAX Index fell by 0.3 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both edged down by 0.1 percent.

Crude oil futures slipped on Friday, but posted a third straight week of gains. WTI crude dipped $0.21 or 0.3 percent to $71.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.