April 10, 2018 / 6:58 AM / 3 months ago

Australia shares end at over 2-wk high on Xi's speech, resources firms; NZ up

* Materials, financials help Aussie benchmark higher

* Global miner Rio Tinto ends 2.8 pct higher

* U.S. imposes sanctions on Russian producer United Company Rusal; Aluminium gains

* Bauxite miner Alumina finishes at seven year-closing high (Updates to close)

April 10 (Reuters) - Australia shares rose on Tuesday as a combination of higher metal prices and comments from China’s president Xi Jinping, seen as calming trade tensions with the United States, drove up resources stocks and financials.

Risker assets, including regional equities and U.S. stock futures, rallied after Xi promised to open the country’s markets further, lower import tariffs on products including cars and protect intellectual property of foreign firms.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.8 percent, or 48.3 points, to 5,857. It rose 0.4 percent on Monday. A de-escalation in the trade dispute between the United States and China, Australia’s biggest export market and a key revenue earner for its resources, would be seen as beneficial to local stocks. The Australia dollar, a liquid proxy for China plays, also advanced on the day.

Materials stocks gained after Shanghai aluminium prices touched their highest in more than a month after U.S. sanctions being imposed on Russian aluminium major United Company Rusal led to concerns about the metal’s supply.

The Shanghai Futures Exchange’s most-traded May aluminium contract climbed as much as 1.5 percent while the most-traded iron ore for September delivery on the Dalian Commodity Exchange gained 3 percent.

“There are issues with aluminium markets, specifically with the Russian supply side and that is a short term spike, but overall, I think that will have some effect,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist, Blue Ocean Equities.

Global miner BHP closed 0.8 percent higher while Rio Tinto gained 2.8 percent.

Bauxite miner and refiner Alumina Ltd climbed 2 percent to its highest close in seven years. Australia’s mining index rose for a third straight session, ending up 1.6 percent.

Westpac Banking Corp contributed the most to the benchmark’s performance, rising 1.5 percent. Fellow lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia firmed 1.1 percent and the financial index made a strong contribution of a 1.1 percent gain to the broader market.

Health care stocks fell on Tuesday, after making the biggest contribution to the market the previous day.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 percent, or 15.64 points, to 8,469.77, helped by utilities and industrials.

Ryman Healthcare Ltd gained 1.9 percent while Contact Energy Ltd tacked on 1.7 percent. (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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