November 26, 2019 / 6:24 AM / 11 days ago

Australian shares rise for third session as Westpac gains on CEO exit

(Updates to close)

Nov 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose for a third session on Tuesday, boosted by a lift in Westpac Banking Corp’s stock after its chief executive stepped down amid a money laundering scandal.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.7% to close at 6,777.8, also buoyed by growing optimism of a deal to end a long-running U.S.-China trade war.

Westpac, the country’s second-largest bank, closed 1.6% higher, capping four straight sessions of losses that had stripped about A$7.5 billion off its market capitalisation.

Chief Executive Brian Hartzer will depart on Dec. 2, while chairman Lindsay Maxsted brought forward his own retirement to the first half of next year as Westpac grapples with the fallout from being charged by regulator AUSTRAC with millions of breaches of money laundering rules.

Westpac’s Big Four peers gained between 0.3% and 1.1%.

Elsewhere, petrol pump and convenience store operator Caltex Australia closed 13.4% higher, slightly lower than its session high after it said Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc sweetened its takeover approach with a A$8.61 billion offer.

Caltex helped drive gains among energy stocks, which rose 1.8%.

Markets received another boost on Tuesday after Beijing said Liu He, China’s vice premier and chief trade negotiator, held a call with his U.S. counterparts and that both sides reached consensus on solving problems related to the trade spat.

Mining stocks advanced on the improved trade deal hopes, with top miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto marginally higher.

Rare earths miner Lynas Corp slid 3.5% after its chief executive officer said she expects prices to remain weak for major products as China ramps up output.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.8% higher, or 56.1 points to finish the session at 6,787.5.

SkyCity Entertainment rose 2.1%. The company said its insurers confirmed coverage for damage caused by fire to an under-construction convention centre ‍and an adjacent hotel in Auckland. (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; editing by Jane Wardell)

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