The Australian sharemarket edged up to a fresh six-year closing high after superficially strong headline catching US housing data swept aside weak Chinese and European manufacturing data out yesterday.
Following the rise to a marginal record high on the US S&P 500 index last night the S&P/ASX 200 index firmed 6.7 points, or 0.12 per cent, to 5645.6 as investors nervously awaited US Federal Reserve chairman Janet Yellen’s Jackson Hole speech tonight.
Markets are looking for proof Dr Yellen does not belong in the Fed’s “hawkish” camp calling interest rates higher early next year.
Last night the S&P 500 rose 0.3 per cent after US existing house sales rose 2.6 per cent but the rise was heavily weighted towards sales of home worth more than $US1 million while sales below $250,000 fell sharply, underscoring concerns about the uneven economic recovery.
The Philadelphia Fed index also climbed to its second highest level in 10-years but again the detail was lacking after new orders tumbled 20 points and the jobs component lost 3 points.
“The headline question on business conditions is unlikely to sustain July-August gains if that detail does not improve sharply in September,” Westpac economist Imre Speizer said.
The Shanghai composite index was up 0.3 per cent at the close of the ASX as investors shrugged off yesterday’s weak manufacturing PMI data on expectations of further stimulation measures.
In Tokyo the Nikkei index lost 0.2 per cent.
The Australian dollar climbed US0.7¢ to US93.20¢ while government 10-year yields were flat at 3.474 per cent after benchmark US 10-years dropped 3 points to 2.40 per cent.
Spot iron ore futures fell 1.2 per cent to $US92.90 a tonne yesterday while Dalian iron ore futures were up 0.2 per cent today.
Copper rose 0.4 per cent to $US7005 a tonne and gold lost $US6 to $US1279 an ounce.
CommSec market analyst Steven Daghlian said gains were made despite some big companies going ex-dividend, meaning new shareholders aren’t eligible for the latest payout, which typically causes a share price fall.
"We’ve had a number of relatively large companies being ex-dividend this week, CBA and Suncorp for example, and the market still managed to improve off the back of this,” he said.
Gas giant Santos was among the best performers on Friday, after it announced it will pay a higher dividend.
Its shares gained 57 cents, or 3.9 per cent, to $15.16.
Most of the banks also rose, with ANZ gaining 26 cents to $33.47, NAB rising 10 cents to $34.46 and Commonwealth Bank lifting 34 cents to $80.61.
Westpac dropped five cents to $34.89.
The big resource players bucked the positive trend, as investors punished them for disappointing dividend offerings.
“Some of the bigger miners haven’t been sharing as much as their profits with investors as what some shareholders would have liked,” Mr Daghlian said.
BHP dropped 23 cents to $37.80, Rio shed 20 cents to $65.40 and Fortescue was six cents weaker at $4.42.
Crown Resorts gained 20 cents to $16.18 after striking a deal with the Victorian government to pay less tax on VIP gaming, increase its table games and poker machines, and extend its Melbourne casino licence.
Rival Echo Entertainment shed eight cents to $3.15.
The broader All Ordinaries index was up 6.5 points, or 0.12 per cent, at 5640.5 points.
The September share price index futures contract was four points higher at 5609 points, with 17,631 contracts traded.
National turnover was 1.86 billion securities worth $4.86 billion.