Australia shares slightly higher ahead of US inflation data

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Feb 10 (Reuters) – Australian stocks posted modest gains on Thursday, driven by tech stocks and strong gains by National Australia Bank on strong earnings, even as investors eyed expected U.S. inflation data later in the day for further clues on interest rate hikes.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index (.AXJO) ended up 0.3% at 7,288.50, maintaining a three-day winning streak. The benchmark index had gained 1.1% on Wednesday.

Shares of the country’s second-biggest lender, National Australia Bank (NAB.AX), jumped 4.5% after reporting a 9.1% rise in first-quarter profits, driven by growth in its household and business loans. Read more

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That sent financial stocks (.AXFJ) up 0.9% in their third straight session of gains. The other three banks of the “big four” firmed between 1.1% and 1.2%, while wealth manager AMP Ltd (AMP.AX) rose 5.9% on a jump in annual profit . Read more

Australian shares of Block Inc soared 9.7% to lead a rally among tech stocks (.AXIJ), which added 2.6% to become the benchmark’s top gainer. The sub-index also followed a significantly higher late night in the Wall Street indexes.

Network operator Megaport (MP1.AX) gained 7.6%, while Xero Ltd (XRO.AX) gained 0.5%.

Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut, said investors appeared to be in wait-and-see mode today. “They’re taking some money off the table based on US inflation data due tonight,” he added.

Rooney also pointed out that the end of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) bond-buying spree could also affect investor sentiment.

The RBA halted its quantitative easing campaign on Thursday after buying more than A$350 billion ($251.23 billion) in bonds as part of a massive pandemic stimulus package. Read more

Among other sectors, miners (.AXMM) gained 0.7% on strong commodity prices, while healthcare stocks (.AXHJ) and energy stocks (.AXEJ) fell 0.7%. 0.8% and 0.4%, respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 (.NZ50) finished down 0.2% to end the session at 12,413.05.

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Reporting by Himanshi Akhand in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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