January 3, 2017 / 6:45 AM / 7 months ago

Australia shares hit 19-month high led by miners, financials

(Updates to close)

Jan 3 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed at a 19-month high in thin trade on Tuesday boosted by financials and miners, which gained on rising base metal prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1.2 percent, or 67.409 points, to 5,733.2, the highest close since June 1, 2015. Trading volumes were 0.6 times the 30-day average.

The index closed 2016 up 7 percent, the best annual performance since 2013, as gains in most commodity prices drove up shares in mining firms.

On Tuesday, materials ended at their highest close since March 2, 2015, lifted by mining heavyweights as copper gained on expectations of strong demand from China and the United States.

BHP Billiton Ltd rose 1.6 percent while its spin-off South32 Ltd jumped 4 percent.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd added 1.2 percent after Chinese steel prices edged up on expectations of lower output from China.

Financials gained 1.2 percent to end at their highest in nearly 17 months, with the "Big Four" banks leading the rally on the main index.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Australia's third-largest bank by market cap, rose 1.7 percent and was the biggest contributor to the benchmark's gains.

The bank said it would sell its stake in Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank Co Ltd to China COSCO Shipping and Shanghai Sino-Poland Enterprise Management Development for A$1.8 billion ($1.3 billion).

Energy stocks added 0.9 percent as oil prices rose on hopes OPEC and non-OPEC production cuts would ease the global supply glut.

Gold miners shed 0.1 percent despite gains in gold prices in the face of a strong dollar.

New Zealand's share market was closed for a public holiday and will reopen on Wednesday. ($1 = 1.3839 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Geo Tharappel in Bengaluru; Editing by Randy Fabi)

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