September 28, 2018 / 6:37 AM / 3 months ago

Australia shares rise as banks brush aside scathing inquiry report; NZ also up

* Financials lead gains after inquiry releases interim report

* Top lender CBA biggest boost to the benchmark

* Financials index has best day in a month (Updates to close)

By Aditya Soni

Sept 28 (Reuters) - Australian shares jumped to a more than three-week high on Friday as banks shrugged off the interim report of a high-profile inquiry into the country’s financial industry.

Boosted by gains in banks, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 percent or 26.4 points to 6,207.6 at the close of trade. The benchmark posted a gain of 0.2 percent for the quarter.

The financials index, which had moved sideways in the morning, climbed as much as 2.1 percent after the release of the report.

Australia’s big banks and wealth managers pursued profit above all else and viewed regulatory compliance as “a cost of doing business” rather than a guide to proper conduct, according to the Royal Commision’s interim report.

However, the report did not include proposals for specific legislative reforms.

“The report is bad, it’s just that the government basically said they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist with Blue Ocean Equities.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 1.9 percent, its biggest percentage gain in one-month and was the biggest to the benchmark. The rest of the “big four” firmed between 1.2-1.8 percent.

No.2 lender Westpac Banking Corp reversed from losses earlier in the session to have its best day since August 29.

The lender had flagged a fall of about A$235 mln ($169.51 mln) in annual cash earnings after market hours on Thursday.

Gains on the benchmark were also supported by a rally materials, with BHP rising 0.4 percent to a more than two-month high, while South32 Ltd firmed 0.8 percent to a near five-month high.

“The markets are having the usual optimism into the close of a quarter,” Somasundaram said.

Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose about 0.7 percent or 64.66 points to finish the session at 9,351.06. The index posted a gain of 4.6 percent for the quarter.

Gains were dominated by shares of health care and telecommunication services.

Ryman Healthcare Ltd climbed 2.6 percent to a one-month high, while Spark New Zealand Ltd jumped 3.1 percent to its highest since Sept. 19. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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