October 16, 2019 / 5:57 AM / a month ago

Australian shares gain for 5th day on Wall Street rally, Brexit optimism

* Aussie benchmark index at 2-week high

* Banks, energy firms lead gains

* Commodity prices weigh on mining stocks (Updates to close)

Oct 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended higher for a fifth straight session on Wednesday, buoyed by gains in financial and energy stocks, as upbeat U.S. corporate results and hopes of a potential Brexit deal boosted risk appetite.

The S&P ASX 200 index closed 1.3% higher at 6,736.5, its highest level in two weeks. The benchmark ended marginally higher on Tuesday.

Stronger-than-expected corporate earnings from major U.S. banks helped alleviate fears of a global economic slowdown, while news that Britain and the European Union could reach a deal in time for a leaders’ summit this week added to the positive mood.

Australia’s financial index, which has the biggest weightage on the benchmark index, climbed as much as 1.7%, marking its best session in more than a month.

Gains in the financial sector were led by the country’s “Big Four” banks, which added between 1% and 1.5%.

Meanwhile, strength in global crude prices on signals of possible further supply curbs lifted energy stocks 1.3% higher, with index heavyweights Santos Ltd and Oil Search rising 1.3% and 1% each.

Industrial engineering firm WorleyParsons jumped 4% and was among the top performers in the energy sector. The company on Wednesday informed Australia’s foreign investments regulator of “creeping acquisitions” by its biggest shareholder, Dubai-based Dar Group.

The mining sub-index ended 0.3% lower, pressured by weaker iron ore prices. Global mining giants BHP Group fell as much as 0.5%, while Rio Tinto slipped 0.9% despite reporting a 5% rise in third-quarter iron ore shipments.

Gold stocks skid as much as 2.8% to their weakest level since July 3, as a broader risk-on sentiment capped the bullion’s gains.

OceanaGold Corp declined 8.4% and was among the biggest drags on the gold index, as the miner warned of lower output this year after it suspended production at its Didipio gold and copper mine in the Philippines citing a dispute with local government.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1.2% to finish the session at 11,178.64, marking a fourth straight day of gains.

New Zealand’s central bank signalled more rate cuts, or even unconventional stimulus measures, may be needed to counter global headwinds, as data on Wednesday showed the country’s annual inflation rate slowed in the third quarter.

Dairy firm Synlait Milk and Restaurant Brands New Zealand were among the top gainers on the local benchmark, soaring 5.4% and 4.2% each.

Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich

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