May 16, 2017 / 7:19 AM / 6 months ago

Australia shares eke out marginal gains, NZ falls

(Updates to close)

May 16 - Australian bank stocks ended Tuesday in the red, as National Australia Bank dropped 3.5 percent as it traded ex-dividend, but all other sectors closed in positive territory, lifted by recovering commodity and metal prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index perked up 0.2 percent, or 12.098 points, to 5,850.5 at the close of trade. The strength in resource stocks lifted the index up as much as 0.6 percent in early trade. The benchmark ended 0.03 percent higher on Monday.

National Australia Bank sank to its lowest in three months after trading ex-dividend. The country’s fourth-biggest lender recorded its biggest one-day fall in six months, snapping three days of gains.

Macquarie Group, Australia’s biggest investment bank, followed suit and slipped 2.1 percent, its lowest in over 3 weeks.

The other 3 banks in the “Big 4” closed 0.3 to 0.5 percent higher, leading gainers on the index.

Iron ore recovered after touching a four-month trough in the previous session, gold edged up for a fourth day of gains on weak U.S. data and oil prices extended gains on hopes of an extension of crude supply cut.

Resource stocks were in the spotlight among gainers where index heavyweights Rio Tinto and BHP closed 1.4 percent and 0.8 percent higher.

Activist investor Elliott Management upped pressure on the Anglo-American miner BHP to make changes in its structure to boost shareholder value.

The market also mirrored the positive sentiment on Wall Street, buoyed by increased demand for technology stocks following the global cyber attack.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index lost 0.3 percent, or 22.33 points, to finish the session at 7,407.61. Heartland Bank was the index’s biggest decliner. (Reporting by Hanna Paul; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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