The Australian sharemarket advanced 7.1 per cent in 2017, posting its second straight annual rise, supported by commodity producers and high-flying growth stocks.
On Friday, the last trading day of the year, the S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 23 points or 0.4 per cent to close at 6065.1 points. The NZX 50 slid 10 points to 8398.08.
For the quarter, Australian shares advanced 6.8 per cent, the best performance since March 2015, and for the month, 1.6 per cent. The annual gain was the best since 2013.
QBE Insurance agreed to pay $132.5 million to settle a class action over 2013 share price plunge, in an after-market statement on Thursday. In December 2013 QBE's share price dropped by more than 22 per cent in a single day and 30 per cent over two days, wiping $4 billion off the company's value. The stock fell 0.3 per cent to $10.69.
Crown Resorts will sell its 62 per cent interest in CrownBet for $150 million, to an entity linked to the online wagering business's management team. Crown shares fell 0.2 per cent to $13.02.
Fonterra Shareholders' Fund declined 2.7 per cent to $5.73 after the co-op downgraded its forecast for New Zealand milk collections to 1,480 kilograms of milk solids from 1,525kg for 2017-18. The revised volume is 4 per cent lower than in 2016-17.
Myer Holdings rose 4.8 per cent to 66??; Saracen Mineral Holdings fell 4 per cent to $1.69. Shares of confectioner Yowie Group were halted ahead of a trading update.
Buru Energy flagged that rain linked to Cyclone Hilda had impacted its Ungani field, causing oil production from the Ungani field to be shut for up to three days and potential delays in completion of the Ungani 5 well. Buru shares fell 1.6 per cent to 31??.
Aruma Resources was pinged by the ASX over a share price spike which sent the microcap surging 57 per cent to 3.3??. Aruma is awaiting drilling results but had no further information to disclose.
Japanese stocks rose in thin trading ahead of the New Year's holiday with the Topix heading for its best annual performance since 2013. The Topix index has gained about 20 per cent this year, while the Nikkei 225 Stock Average has 19 per cent, heading for the best year since 2013.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index is sitting on an annual gain of about 28 per cent, backed by the region's world-beating growth and a go-slow approach by major central banks in withdrawing record monetary stimulus.
The Australian dollar was on track for a third straight week of gains on Friday, and its best annual performance in seven years, as optimism for global growth and strong commodity prices helped offset its shrinking yield advantage.
The Australian dollar was trading at US78.02??, having touched a 10-week top of US78.10?? overnight. That left the commodity currency with gains of more than 8 per cent for the year, its best showing since 2010.
What moved the market:
La dolce vita
Europe is enjoying the highest levels of business and consumer confidence in 17 years. But Neil Mellor, senior currency strategist at BNY Mellon, warns that a policy error could have significant consequences. "A policy slip would leave the high-debt, high-unemployment eurozone ill-equipped for the next downturn, we contend that an inflation-overshoot has to be considered [Mario] Draghi's preferred risk," he writes. The crisis is over, and the European Central Bank is facing growing pressure to unwind stimulus in 2018, which will test the stability of the region.
Big tech companies dominate the rankings of the world's most valuable public companies, led by Apple, which puts a target on their backs. Anxiety about tech companies is mostly confined to pockets among regulators, politicians and the media, but America's tech superpowers have to worry anti-tech feelings will spread to the masses and force tighter regulations or make people use their products less.
Oil's revival from the biggest crash in a generation persisted, with prices set for a second annual gain. Benchmark futures are up more than 11 per cent in 2017, after going into a bull market in September. West Texas Intermediate for February delivery was at $US60.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up 31??. While gains were driven by glut-shrinking output cuts by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russia, geopolitical tensions as well as pipeline disruptions from the North Sea to Canada and Libya have also helped. In 2018, investors will watch if US output undermines OPEC's curbs.
Stock watch: NextDC Limited
The data centre operator is recommended as a "buy" by Citi, which reaffirmed its confidence in NextDC's outlook upon the company reporting the fastest build rate to date at its S2 site in Sydney in an update last week. It has already received orders for more than 5MW of capacity, in what will be a 30MW facility once fully built. Shares of NextDC were trading at $6.09 on Friday. Citi observes that client demand is strong and expects a quick uptake of the new capacity, albeit with risks to client usage and billing. NextDC also holds a 29.2 per cent interest in Asia Pacific Data Centre Group.
With Reuters and Bloomberg