March 17 (Reuters) – Australian shares closed higher on Friday, led by energy and banking stocks, as risk sentiment improved after authorities moved to rescue distressed banks, easing fears of a banking crisis in major markets.
The S&P/ASX 200 index finished 0.4% higher at 6,994.8, but posted a weekly decline of 2.1%, falling for a sixth straight week.
Contagion fears battered global markets this week after the collapse of US tech-focused lender Silicon Valley Bank, followed by worries that the banking crisis had spread to Europe with Credit Suisse under pressure.
However, a USD 54 billion lifeline from the Swiss National Bank to Credit Suisse and reports that several large banks injected billions of dollars in embattled First Republic Bank, boosted risk appetite.
“The market has obviously bounced off the lows but it’s been a very lifeless rebound as investors want to make sure that they have seen the last of those shockwaves that hit the US banking markets and then hit Europe,” said Tony Sycamore, an analyst at IG Group.
“The market is still skittish, and there’s been an easing of worries certainly over the past 24 hours, but the market wants to see more evidence of that,” Sycamore added.
In Sydney, financials rose 0.9%, with the “Big Four” banks up between 0.2% and 1.7%.
Australian energy stocks led gains on the benchmark, with a 2.3% jump after oil prices rebounded on reports that top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia met to discuss ways to enhance market stability.
Woodside Petroleum climbed 2.5% and Santos gained 2.3%.
Among individual stocks, Australian transit operator Kelsian Group fell more than 11% after the company undertook a discounted placement to fund its USD 325 million acquisition of a US-based bus operator.
Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained 0.2% to 11,725.62.
(Reporting by Riya Sharma in Bengaluru; editing by Eileen Soreng)