Australian Market Rises, Led By BHP

The Australian stock market is rising on Thursday following the positive cues from Wall Street and reflecting gains by mining stocks after mining giant BHP said it will return $10.4 billion to shareholders.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 12.40 points or 0.21 percent to 5,842.70, after rising to a high of 5,877.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 14.60 points or 0.25 percent to 5,927.90. Australian shares ended modestly higher on Wednesday.

In the mining space, BHP is gaining more than 4 percent, Rio Tinto is adding almost 2 percent and Fortescue Metals is advancing more than 1 percent.

BHP said it will return $10.4 billion to shareholders, through an off-market $5.2 billion share buyback that it will start immediately, and the remaining $5.2 billion through a special dividend to be calculated on December 17.

The big four banks are mostly lower. Westpac is down almost 1 percent and ANZ Banking is lower by 0.5 percent.

National Australia Bank said its full-year cash profit declined 14 percent on restructuring costs and customer remediation, while statutory profit rose 5 percent. The bank’s shares are rising more than 1 percent.

Commonwealth Bank’s shares are declining almost 1 percent after it said it is issuing debt through a hybrid capital notes offer to raise about A$750 million.

Shares of AMP are gaining more than 7 percent amid speculation that Macquarie Group was planning a takeover of the wealth manager.

Gold miners are also extending losses after gold prices fell to a three-week low. Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining is losing almost 1 percent each.

Oil stocks are also mostly weak after crude oil prices fell for a third straight session overnight. Woodside Petroleum is lower by 0.5 percent and Santos is declining 0.6 percent, while Oil Search is up 0.2 percent.

Woolworths’ shares are adding more than 1 percent after the supermarket giant said its first-quarter food sales rose only a modest 1.8 percent, due to the removal of single-use plastic. Total sales for the three months to September 30 increased 1.9 percent.

On the economic front, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group revealed that the manufacturing sector in Australia continued to expand in October, albeit at a slightly slower rate, with a Performance of Manufacturing Index score of 58.3. That’s down from 59.0, although it remains well above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

Australia is also scheduled to release September trade figures, October commodity price data as well as third-quarter import and export price data today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar lost ground against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7079, down from $0.7089 on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks extended gains on Wednesday, partly reflecting a positive reaction to the latest earnings news from several big-name companies. Buying interest was also generated in reaction to a report from payroll processor ADP showing stronger than expected private sector job growth in the month of October.

The Dow jumped 241.12 points or 1 percent to 25,115.76, the Nasdaq soared 144.25 points or 2 percent to 7,305.90 and the S&P 500 surged up 29.11 points or 1.1 percent to 2,711.74.

The major European markets also showed significant moves to the upside on Wednesday. While the French CAC 40 Index surged up by 2.3 percent, the German DAX Index and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index jumped by 1.4 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices fell for a third straight session on Wednesday as data from U.S. Energy Information Administration showed crude stockpiles increased last week, rising for a sixth successive week. WTI crude for December declined $0.87 or 1.3 percent to close at $65.31 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.