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Strong February Employment Data Bear Down on Australian Shares

Australian shares fell on Friday as a strong showing in the domestic job market fanned concerns that the Reserve Bank of Australia will delay rate cuts.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index retreated 11.40 points, or 0.2%, to 7,770.60.

Unemployment in Australia surprisingly dropped in February, with the unemployment rate sliding 0.4 of a percentage point to 3.7%, as more jobs opened amid the post-pandemic normalization of the economy.

Robert Carnell, ING’s regional head of research in Asia-Pacific, said employment data are “too strong” to be ignored by the RBA in determining the next benchmark rate.

While the RBA keeps its rate options open, Carnell said a further “insurance hike” in the first half of 2024 cannot be ruled out.

In company news, Swift Networks SSW1 secured subscription renewal agreements, network infrastructure upgrades and room expansions that have an aggregate value of AU$2 million. Shares of the specialist technology company rose 6% Friday.

Enegex EENX has been granted exploration license E70/6591, which covers the Rocky Ridge gold prospect, boosting the company’s position in the West Yilgarn metals province of Western Australia. Shares of the mineral explorer surged 37%.