Supermarkets, health care lift Aust market

James Hall

The Australian share market has closed higher due to strong gains from supermarket and health care stocks, offsetting losses to the commodity-related sectors as investors moved away from volatile shares.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 23.8 points, or 0.42 per cent, at 5757.9 on Friday, while the broader All Ordinaries rose 0.37 per cent, as the bourse shrugged off a choppy Wall Street session and subdued oil prices.

Bell Direct equities analyst Julia Lee said buyers leaned on defensive stocks - consumer staples, health care and property - given the volatility of markets this week and lingering negative investor sentiment.

This allowed the ASX to snap a three-day run of losses.

"The Australian market is weighted towards defensive-type of areas, and is seen as a defensive market, so we tend to outperform in times of volatility," she told AAP.

Coles ended its run of losses this week and has now recorded its third straight session of strong gains, rising 4.1 per cent to $12.60, to lift the consumer staples higher.

Woolworths was also buoyant for the sector, lifting 0.7 per cent to $29.23, while Treasury Wine Estate, Coca-Cola Amatil and The A2 Milk Company were between 1.1 and 1.7 per cent higher.

Health care benchmark CSL climbed 2.6 per cent to $183.90, and was supported by Cochlear, up three per cent to $174.40, and ResMed, up 1.2 per cent to $15.46.

Sonic Healthcare and Fisher and Paykel however, were both lower.

The financial sector had a mixed day but Commonwealth Bank's rise of one per cent to $70.37 was buoyant for the indices.

Westpac and NAB were up 0.2 and 0.3 per cent respectively, while ANZ was the weakest of the big four lenders, up 0.16 per cent to $25.71.

Beleaguered wealth manager IOOF Holdings took a big hit, dropping more than 35 per cent to $4.60, after the prudential regulator moved to disqualify its top brass and impose new license conditions following allegations of wrongdoing.

Wesfarmers, up 0.7 per cent to $31.95, lifted the consumer discretionaries higher, while the telcos, property and industrials sectors were all higher.

The OPEC meeting overnight failed to produce any production cuts, which will lead to oil prices coming under pressure, Ms Lee told AAP.

This contributed to the weakening of energy stocks on the market, with Caltex, Woodside and Oil Search between 1.2 and 1.7 per cent lower.

The materials were also a weight on the market as BHP and South32 were down 0.7 and one per cent, while Rio Tinto eked out a gain to $72.32.

The Australian dollar edged slightly higher and was buying 72.29 US cents at 1630 AEDT, from 72.27 US cents cents on Thursday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 23.8 points, or 0.42 per cent, at 5757.9

* The All Ordinaries was up 21.2 points, or 0.37 per cent, at 5757.9

* At 1630 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up eight points, or 0.14 per cent, at 5665

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 72.29 US cents, from 72.27 US cents on Thursday

* 81.63 Japanese yen, from 81.43

* 63.56 euro cents, from 63.68

* 56.61 British pence, from 56.79

* 105.05 NZ cents, from 105.19

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1630 AEDT was $US1239.41 per fine ounce, from $US1239.45 on Thursday.