February 23, 2018 / 5:44 AM / 3 months ago

Australia shares rise on resources, CBA; NZ also up

* Australian materials gain on higher commodities prices

* CBA rises after statement on govt claims

* Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp leads NZ higher (Updates to close)

Feb 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares firmed on Friday, helped by gains in resources shares which were buoyed by higher commodities prices.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia also lent the benchmark index some buoyancy, rising 1.1 percent, after denying most of the 100 additional claims made against it by the country’s financial intelligence agency alleging breaches of anti-money laundering laws.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.8 percent or 48.900 points at 5,999.800. It advanced 1.6 percent on the week, but is still slightly in the red for February after global markets took a pummeling early in the month.

Buoyed by CBA, the broader financial sector index climbed 0.7 percent to a more than two-week high.

But resources shares accounted for most of the gains, underpinned by rising iron ore prices.

Mining stalwart BHP climbed 1.6 percent, while South32 Ltd added 6.7 percent.

NEXTDC Ltd was the benchmark’s top percentage gainer, leaping 10.4 percent to a record high. The data centre operator reported a jump in half-year core earnings and upgraded its full-year 2018 revenue forecast.

But consumer staples fell, pressured by Woolworths Group Ltd which sank 2.6 percent despite reporting a rise in first-half profit as investors were concerned that it was sacrificing margins to win business.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended up 0.4 percent or 34.840 points at 8,301.720.

The benchmark gained 2.2 percent for the week.

Healthcare stocks accounted for nearly half the gains, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd climbing 2.7 percent to a three-week high.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd declined 1.9 percent, after hitting record highs for two consecutive days after reporting record half-year profit due to Chinese demand. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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