Australian shares closed marginally higher as trading remained subdued ahead of the Easter holidays
Australian shares closed marginally higher on Thursday, as trading remained subdued ahead of the Easter holidays, with losses in healthcare and gold stocks offsetting gains in the energy sector.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.1 percent, or 3.4 points, at 6,259.80, after falling 0.3 percent on Wednesday. The index gained for a third straight week, rising 0.1 percent.
Markets in Australia and New Zealand will be closed on Friday and Monday for the Easter holidays.
The Australian healthcare sub-index fell 1.3 percent, in line with overnight losses in their U.S. peers, with the S&P healthcare index falling 2.5 percent.
Sector heavyweight, drug maker CSL Ltd, slipped 1.3 percent while Resmed Inc. tumbled 4 percent. Both companies have high exposure to U.S. markets.
The healthcare index fell about 2.3 percent this week, its biggest fall in 9 weeks.
Gold stocks fell 0.5 percent as gold prices fell to their lowest since end-December after recent economic data drove investors towards riskier assets.
Evolution Mining Ltd fell 3 percent, while Australian shares of AngloGold Ashanti Ltd slipped 1.6 percent.
The Australian financial index extended gains for a fifth straight session, closing 0.2 percent higher. The index gained 2.2 percent this week, its biggest weekly gain since late-February.
National Australia Bank Ltd flagged an additional A$749 million ($537.18 million) in charges to refund thousands of wronged customers and said it would review its dividend policy.
NAB gained 0.1 percent, while rival Australia and New Zealand Banking Group gained about 0.2 percent.
Meanwhile, energy stocks snapped losses to close about 1.1 percent higher, as oil prices rose on Thursday supported by ongoing OPEC-led supply cuts and a surprise fall in U.S. crude inventories.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd rose 1 percent after reporting a 4 percent rise in its first-quarter revenue, while Whitehaven Coal Ltd jumped 6.4 percent.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index retreated from its record high in the previous session, to end down 0.2 percent, or 22.62 points, at 9,959.62 on Thursday.
Dairy products maker a2 Milk Company Ltd declined 1.9 percent, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd fell 2.2 percent.