Australian shares end flat over the week
Australian shares ended virtually flat over a week of whipsaw trade dominated by heavy selling of resources stocks.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 13.1 points, or 0.3%, firmer over the week at 5,052.
On Friday, the benchmark index fell 60.1 points, or 1.2%, as the stocks gauge remained a hair’s breadth above the key psychological level of 5,000.
On Tuesday, the stocks gauge dropped below 5,000, shedding more than 3% as a big sell-off in resources, led by market heavyweight BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP), slashed nearly $60bn from the market’s overall value.
The sell-off followed a share price plunge in Glencore in London on Monday, when shareholders wiped about US$6bn from the Swiss commodities giant’s market value. Concerns that sustained weakness in commodity prices would hamper its ability to repay debt sparked the selling.
Glencore’s share price rebounded two days later, recovering most of the losses.
“The concerns over Glencore sent global markets into a tailspin this week,” said CommSec’s Juliana Roadley.
“What it showed us is investors are nervous,” Roadley added.
Share investors have been grappling with Australia’s difficult transition from resources-led economy to a broader based one as China’s economy shifts from industrialisation to consumption.
The resources sector has contracted 21% so far in 2015, including a 1.2% drop over the week.
BHP Billiton shares were virtually flat on Friday at $22.60 and down 1.2% over the week. The diversified resources group is 8% lower over the month and 23% down so far this year.
Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) slid 1.7% on Friday to $48.73, making for a virtually flat showing over the week. Rio has fallen 15.8% so far in 2015.
Health care hit hard
Healthcare companies were hit hard, with the sector falling 2.8% this past week as US presidential hopefuls’ criticism of American health companies and how they are compensated spurred selling here.
Primary Health Care (ASX: PRY) slid 5.8% over the week to $3.72, closing 1 cent above a 52-week low. The declines include a drop of 2.1% on Friday.
Sonic Healthcare (ASX: SHL) fell 2.4% on Friday to $18.01, extending its declines to 4.8% over the week.
Consumer sectors in favour
Consumer discretionary stocks advanced 2.3% over the week and consumer staples added 1.5% as investors sought out names they know in an otherwise volatile market.
Socks and underwear maker Pacific Brands Group (ASX: PBG) powered 7.1% ahead over the week to 71 cents. Its share price has more than doubled over the September quarter.
Even Woolworths (ASX: WOW), battered of late as investors lost faith in the retailer’s strategy, gained 2.6% over the week, closing on Friday at $25.52, revisiting levels last seen in August before the company’s annual net profit announcement missed market expectations. However its shares remain 16.8% down in calendar 2015.