Australian shares rises, banks defer repayments on more than 600,000 loans due to corona virus

The Australian share market has closed higher, with Macquarie Group rising strongly despite the financial group slashing its dividend, while retail stocks rallied on the Government's planned easing of corona virus restrictions.

The ASX 200 gained 0.5 per cent to 5,391 points, off its earlier highs, while the All Ordinaries index gained 0.7 per cent, or 38 points, to 5,488.

Consumer stocks rallied in afternoon trade after Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed a three-step plan to ease restrictions.

Shares in Myer, which is trialing the reopening of some of its Queensland stores, surged 45 per cent to 29 cents.

Other retailers and travel stocks rose, including Super Retail (+6.6 per cent), Retail Food Group (+13.2 per cent), Harvey Norman (+6.7 per cent), Flight Centre (+8.1 per cent) and Webjet (+9.3 per cent).

Shares in Macquarie Group gained 5.7 per cent to $105.19, despite halving its dividend payout.

The company announced an 8.4 per cent drop in full year profit to $2.7 billion and slashed its final dividend to $1.80 per share, compared to $3.60 a year ago.

It did not provide guidance on its profit for the current financial year due to the corona virus pandemic.

"The extent to which these conditions will impact the Group’s overall FY21 profitability is uncertain, making short-term forecasting extremely difficult," Macquarie said.

UBS banking analysts said the decision not to provide guidance was appropriate and the outlook remained challenging, but the result was in line with downgraded expectations.

Meantime, banks continue to defer loan repayments, as customers grapple with the financial fallout of the corona virus crisis.

The Australian Banking Association (ABA) said a further 100,000 loans were deferred over the past week, half of which were home loans.

That takes the total value of loans deferred to at least $200 billion, across 643,000 loans.

"The surge in demand for assistance from banks shows that the economic impacts continue to be felt, and by no means is the nation through this crisis," ABA chief executive Anna Bligh said.

The impact of the corona virus pandemic has seen News Corporation post a $US1 billion ($1.5 billion) loss for the March quarter.

The media giant wrote down the value of its part-owned Foxtel pay TV service and its News America Marketing division by $US1.1 billion.

Revenue fell by 8 per cent over the year to $US2.3 billion, due to a drop in advertising revenue at the News and Information Services division and Foxtel, as well as currency fluctuations.

Chief executive Robert Thomson said there were more cuts to come with a strategic review of costs across its business, particularly in its news division, including a review of its newspaper printing operations.

Last month, News Corp suspended print production at 60 community newspapers across Australia.

Foxtel saw lower advertising revenue after the shutdown of sports including AFL and NRL because of corona virus restrictions.

Mr Thomson said Foxtel was renegotiating with television stations, Nine and Seven, to get lower fees for the broadcast rights for the AFL and NRL and said it was time for a "fundamental reset" of the cost.

"The idea that things will suddenly return to normal this season is absurd. It's not just the quantity of games, but the quality of the experience and that has obviously been diminished," he said.

"That reset has to apply longer term to rights in Australia, in essence there is a new reset reality."

Australian-listed shares of News Corp rose 5.3 per cent, while shares in Telstra, a part-owner of Foxtel, closed down by 1 per cent.


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Australian shares rises, banks defer repayments on more than 600,000 loans due to coronavirus fallout

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