August 27, 2018 / 6:43 AM / 4 months ago

Australian shares led higher by firm commodity prices; NZ up

* Higher gold and base metal prices support resource stock gains

* Financials higher in spite of critical initial findings by inquiry

* Aussie govt leadership tussle comes to an end (Updates to close)

By Nikhil Nainan

Aug 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended higher on Monday, as resource related stocks led gains on the back of higher gold and base metal prices while financials brushed aside early wariness following the initial findings of an inquiry into the sector.

The steadier performance also reflected relief that some political uncertainty had been removed, for at least the near term, by the appointment of Scott Morrison as prime minister after Malcolm Turnbull was forced to quit due to splits within the ruling Liberal Party.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.3 percent higher at 6,268.9. The benchmark gained slightly on Friday, but lost 1.5 percent over the week, as markets became unsettled as moves to oust Turnbull gathered pace.

Gold stocks were among the top gainers in the resource space, as bullion prices drew support from the dollar’s weakness following comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signalling a gradual approach to interest rate hikes.

The gold index climbed 2.7 percent, with Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining rising 2.1 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.

Material stocks were driven higher by rising commodity prices with top miners BHP and Rio Tinto each up over 1 percent.

Shanghai base metal prices mostly rose, extending strong gains seen at the end of last week on the London Metal Exchange.

Meanwhile, financial stocks edged higher albeit in relatively light trade after they were lower earlier in the session.

This follows initial findings from a Royal Commission inquiry into the financial sector, released late on Friday, that strongly criticised pension funds run by National Australia Bank (NAB) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) . (reut.rs/2NiCE6k)

CBA and NAB, two of the so-called ‘Big Four” banks, were up 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, after flirting in the red earlier. NAB had said it disagreed with some of the inquiry’s findings and would address them in closing submissions to the Commission this week.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed half a percent higher, or 46.79 points to finish the session at 9,206.42.

Heavyweight a2 Milk Company was the biggest boost, up 3 percent to its highest close since May, while Synlait Milk , which produces infant formula for a2 Milk, gained 6.2 percent to a record close. (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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