Australian shares closed higher in light trade on Monday, tracking Wall Street gains after US employment data on Friday reduced concerns over a possible recession in the world's largest economy. The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7% to end at 6563.60. Trading was subdued owing to public holidays across a number of Australian states, including New South Wales and Queensland. Volumes were just a little above one-third of their 30-day average.
Australian stocks were also recovering from their worst week in 11 months, losing about 3%, as signs of weak business activity globally saw investors pulling out of risky assets. The jobs data from the United States and the drop in the unemployment rate to the lowest in 50 years led major indexes to rise more than 1% on Friday.
"The US economy, having had some pretty poor data points earlier in the week, seemed to be fairly robust- the equity markets liked it," said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut. However, it could be "more of a mark-up than real conviction," he added, noting that there were still a number of "speedbumps" in store for markets from uncertainty over slowing economic growth and political ructions in the United States and Europe.
Mining stocks were among Monday's key drivers for the ASX 200 index, bolstered by gold stocks. The ASX Gold Index finished 1.6% higher on firmer bullion, with Aurelia Metals and Ramelius Resources ending more than 8% and 6% higher, respectively. Investment conglomerate Washington H Soul Pattinson was the top gainer by percentage.
It rose more than 7%, which domestic media attributed to a target price hike by brokerage Shaw and Partners. Financial stocks tracked their Wall Street peers higher, with the country's Big Four banks posting gains between 0.3% and 0.7%. Technology stocks, the best performing sector on the ASX 200 this year, closed the session about 1.4% higher, led by software firm WiseTech Global, which finished up over 4% and was among the top percentage gainers on the benchmark. New Zealand stocks closed 0.8% or 82.8 points higher at 10,975.62. Fonterra, the world's largest dairy producer, was the top percentage gainer on the benchmark, finishing 5.8% higher.