October 18, 2016 / 2:11 AM / a year ago

Australia shares climb on financials, miners; NZ slides

Oct 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Tuesday, backed by financials and mining shares which were buoyed by higher commodity prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.57 percent after four days of losses, rising 25.22 points to 5,413.9 as of 0200 GMT.

The financials benchmark accounted for more than half the gains on the benchmark, led by Challenger Ltd which rose to a 16-year high after announcing an increase in its assets and funds under management.

The ‘Big Four’ Australian banks rose as much as 0.5 percent to 0.7 percent ahead of reporting its results next week.

“We’re expecting bank earnings to be low growth. The key thing to watch will be the impairment trends and after that bottom line EPS, and DPS,” said Will Keenan, general manager of Direct Equities Research at Lonsec.

Higher gold prices fueled gains for miners of the precious metal, with Newcrest Mining Ltd, Evolution Mining Ltd , Regis Resources Ltd and St Barbara resources Ltd up 1.6 to 4 percent.

Gains in iron ore futures led global miner BHP Billiton and rival Rio Tinto marginally higher, with Fortescue Metals Group up as much as 1.6 percent. Iron ore futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange had risen 2.3 percent to close at 442 yuan.

Sentiment was also impacted by possible merger talks between Australian gambling companies Tatts Group Limited and Tabcorp Holdings Ltd, which requested trading halts on Tuesday to pursue talks to create a A$9.34 billion ($7.1 billion) industry giant.

“It looks like there’s going to be a takeover or a merger between Tabcorp and Tatts and that has probably created a positive start to the markets,” Keenan added.

Energy stocks shed as much as 0.7 percent to touch a near two-week low, led by oil major Caltex Australia Ltd which dropped as much as 2.7 percent after it confirmed its offer to proposal to buy Woolworths Ltd’s petrol station chain.

Analysts expect the deal to be valued at more than A$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion).

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slid as much as 1.3 percent or 93.59 points to 6,972.78, its lowest since July 6.

Declining issues outpaced advancers on the New Zealand exchange by a 4.25-to-1 ratio.

Utilities and healthcare accounted for nearly half of the losses on the benchmark index.

Genesis Energy Ltd was the top percentage loser, declining as much as 2.9 percent.

Meridian Energy Ltd and Mercury NZ Ltd dragged utilities lower, falling 2.9 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

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Reporting by Justin George Varghese; Additional Reporting by Aparajita Saxena; Editing by Kim Coghill

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