Caution rules ahead of Greek elections
The Australian sharemarket has closed higher, but trading volumes were low as investors remained cautious ahead of the weekend elections in Greece.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index rose 15.1 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4057.3 points, but shed 0.15 per cent for the week, posting its second straight weekly loss. The broader All Ordinaries index added 17.2 points, or 0.4 per cent, today to 4107.0.
Greeks go to the polls on Sunday, with the New Democracy party set for a tight battle against the rival, radical left group Syriza. The outcome could potentially lead to Greece exiting the euro common currency, as Syriza remains opposed to accepting austerity conditions linked to a financial bailout package.
OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said the total value of shares traded on the local bourse on Friday were at about half the daily average.
‘‘We’re up but it’s on absolutely no conviction whatsoever,’’ Mr Le Brun said. ‘‘Overall, we are very much on hold for the Greek elections.’’
Mr Le Brun said there was potential for good news arising from the elections in Greece in that it could inspire some swift policy action in relation to the troubled eurozone and see Greece stay with the euro.
‘‘But no-one is prepared to take a bet on it at this stage - that’s why (share) volumes are so absolutely miserable at the moment,’’ he said.
In the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton firmed 4 cents to $31.84, and Rio Tinto was up 23 cents at $54.50.
Coalworks was 2 cents richer at $1.005 after it said it would recommend to its shareholders an improved takeover offer from Whitehaven Coal.
Whitehaven, which itself is the target of a takeover offer from billionaire Nathan Tinkler, has agreed to an amendment that will lift its $142 million takeover offer up to $145.6 million.
Among the major banks, ANZ was 8 cents lower at $21.28, Westpac climbed five cents to $20.34, National Australia Bank was up six cents at $22.12, and Commonwealth Bank found 32 cents at $50.89.
Among other stocks, casinos operator Echo Entertainment was still in a trading halt at $4.49 after it said it would seek to raise $454 million via the issue of new shares as it deals with an expected fall in earnings of up to 39 per cent.
Share registry Computershare reversed 23 cents to $7.57 after it said it would sell UK-based Flag Communication to interests associated with the chairman Chris Morris for 400,000 pounds.
Another large chunk of Fairfax shares changed hands, this time after the market closed, with 69.76 million shares, or about 3 per cent of the company, traded at 60 cents a share.
There has been speculation that major shareholder Gina Rinehart is increasing her stake in the media company, publisher of this website, from 13 per cent to 19.9 per cent.
On Wednesday around midday a big line of shares worth about 2 per cent of the company were sold.
Fairfax closed at 60.5 cents today, up 0.5 cent for the day.
BusinessDay with agencies