March 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares extended gains into a third session on Thursday, helped by gains in resources stocks as commodity prices surged.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.27 percent, or 15.7 points, at 5789.8 as of 0104 GMT, with the benchmark mining index rising nearly 3 percent to its highest in more than a week.
Iron ore futures in China surged over 5 percent on Wednesday as steel prices rose to their strongest in more than three years, while copper prices gained for a fourth straight session.
Miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 2.8 percent and 3 percent, respectively.
Gold rose to a one-week high on Thursday as the dollar fell after the U.S. Federal Reserve stuck to a less hawkish stance on further interest rate hikes this year.
The market had started to price in the possibility of four rate hikes rather than three in 2017 and that is probably not the case now after what Fed Chair Janet Yellen said last night, said Evan Lucas, a market strategist with IG Markets.
“It, therefore, gives a little bit more risk sentiment, a positive risk sentiment,” he said.
Gold explorers Newcrest Mining Ltd rose 2.1 percent, while St Barbara Ltd surged 7.1 percent.
Meanwhile, crude prices also extended gains in early Asian trade, after official data showed U.S. stockpiles had eased from record highs.
The energy index rose 1.1 percent in what could be its third straight session of gains, with Santos Ltd rising 3.24 percent and Oil Search Ltd gaining 0.87 percent.
Bucking the trend, financials were down 0.44 percent tracking U.S. peers.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd and Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.94 percent and 0.49 percent, respectively.
Transport fuel provider Caltex Australia Ltd fell 1.3 percent after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said the company’s proposed acquisition of Milemaker Petroleum could reduce competition and lead to “Melbourne motorists paying more for petrol”
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.54 percent to 7,169.8, helped by gains in industrial and material sectors.
New Zealand’s economy grew slower than expected in the fourth quarter of 2016, as exports dropped sharply, mostly owing to heavy spring rain cutting dairy production.
Shares of Auckland International Airport Ltd were up 2.5 percent. (Reporting by Urvashi Goenka in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Sindhu Chandrasekaran; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)