* BHP gains boost benchmark, mining sector rise
* All ‘Big Four’ banks advance
* Energy index weaker despite oil uptick (Updates to close)
July 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares finished higher on Wednesday, thanks to a surge in BHP Group stock after the world’s biggest miner reported a rebound in iron ore output for the fourth quarter.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.5% to 6,673.30 at the close of trade, more than recouping the 0.2% loss on Tuesday.
BHP reported a rebound in iron ore output in the fourth quarter after a cyclone hit production in March, and forecast modest output growth in 2019/20 amid a surge in prices.
While the miner’s output was soft year-on-year, it was up 12% on the March quarter, which typically is the weakest quarter due to Australian weather conditions.
BHP’s 1.4% rise pushed up the mining index by 0.7%. As iron ore prices pulled back from record levels on Wednesday, BHP’s smaller rival Rio Tinto finished flat.
Iron ore miner Fortescue fell 2.1%.
Gains in the financial sector after two straight sessions of losses further buttressed the benchmark index, with the country’s top four banks gaining in the range of 0.1%-0.7%.
The energy sector was the major contributor to losses despite an uptick in oil prices after steep falls in the previous session.
The sub-index slid 0.3%, with its biggest constituents Woodside Petroleum and Santos Ltd losing 0.3% and 0.7%, respectively.
Their smaller sector peer Oil Search slid 3.1% to its lowest closing level in a week after Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister pressed the company and its oil major partners to pay more tax on Tuesday.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed up 3.6 points at 10,654.80.
Air New Zealand was the top advancer on the benchmark, adding 2.2%. On the other hand, Fletcher Building’s 3.5% fall made it the top loser.
Reporting by Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam