Australian shares climb for fifth straight week

Australian shares climb for fifth straight week

(Updates to close)

By Himanshi Akhand

Aug 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended little changed on Friday but posted their fifth consecutive weekly gain on robust earnings, local jobs and wages data and the central bank's cautious rate hike stance.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO ended the session 0.02% higher at 7,114.50, weighed down by weak earnings reports. The benchmark rose 1.2% for the week.

"The fact that investors want to buy quality stocks at cheap valuations drove the market rebound since mid-June. But after this rally, valuation comfort is no more there. So, from here on, the market direction will depend on how the economy is shaping up," said Kunal Sawhney, chief executive officer, Kalkine Group.

"One should not forget the fact that strong earnings reported by companies such as BHP were because of favourable economic conditions, which may not be there in the coming quarters amid a slowdown in global consumption," he added.

Domestic energy stocks .AXEJ surged 4% to close at their highest level since June 10. The sub-index rose 2.8% for the week.

Whitehaven Coal WHC.AX and New Hope Corp NHC.AX climbed 6.2% and 4%, respectively, on Friday as thermal coal prices soared on rising demand from Europe, which is looking for alternative suppliers to Russia.

Miners .AXMM and gold stocks .AXGD firmed 1% and 1.1%, respectively.

Newcrest Mining NCM.AX jumped 3.6% after the country's largest gold miner topped annual profit estimates.

Heavyweight financial stocks .AXFJ fell 0.8% and were the biggest drag on the benchmark. The so-called "big four" banks declined between 0.7% and 2%.

Pressuring the index on Friday were a bunch of weak earnings reports.

AGL Energy AGL.AX tumbled 3.9% after Australia's top power producer said annual profit more than halved and also missed analysts' estimates.

TPG Telecom TPG.AX dropped 12.4% as half-yearly earnings fell short of estimates, while poultry producer Inghams Group ING.AX fell 9.4% on reporting a lower annual profit.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 ended 1.1% lower at 11,684.81. It lost 0.4% for the week.
Reporting by Himanshi Akhand in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila