September 21, 2018 / 2:16 AM / a year ago

Australian shares advance as materials rally; NZ dips

* Materials rise as copper jumps more than 1 pct

* Aussie banks track gains in U.S. financials

* NZ falls on weakness in utilities and telecommunication services

By Aditya Soni

Sept 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares jumped on Friday, following a strong lead from Wall Street overnight, with materials leading the gains on the back of higher commodity prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 percent or 33.90 points to 6,203.40 by 0200 GMT. It lost 0.3 percent on Thursday but was on track for a weekly gain of 0.6 percent, its biggest since August.

“We followed from the U.S. with the Dow closing at a record, although the markets have been driven by big tech stocks like Apple and Microsoft,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

Trade-sensitive industrial stocks led the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a record closing high on Thursday, with all three major U.S. indexes closing up as trade worries subsided.

Copper on the London Metal Exchange climbed 1.2 percent on Friday, boosting investor appetite for Aussie miners.

The metals and mining index surged 1.7 percent to its highest since August 15, with materials stocks accounting for nearly half the gains on the S&P/ASX 200.

Gains in miners were also underpinned by a recovery in Dalian iron ore futures.

BHP, the world’s largest miner, rose 2 percent to a three-week high and was the biggest boost to the benchmark, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd firmed 2.2 percent to a near two-month high.

BHP has asked a U.S. judge to approve a $50 million settlement of claims that it fraudulently inflated its share price by overstating its ability to manage safety risks before a fatal 2015 dam burst at a Brazilian mine.

Australian banks advanced on Friday, mirroring gains in U.S. peers, with the financial index rising 0.7 percent to its highest in more than two weeks.

Gains in the sector were dominated by top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia which firmed 0.7 percent to its highest since August 31, while Westpac Banking Corp strengthened 0.9 percent, its highest in more than two weeks.

Consumer staples also benefited from the improved sentiment. Supermarket operators Woolworths Group Ltd and Wesfarmers Ltd rose 0.8 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

Weakness in utilities and telecommunication services stocks pulled down New Zealand shares.

The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4 percent or 38.87 points to 9,322 after touching a record high in the last session. The index was on track for a weekly gain of 0.6 percent.

Contact Energy Ltd dipped as much as 2.4 percent, its biggest intraday percentage fall in more than three weeks, while telco Spark New Zealand Ltd fell 1.5 percent and was among the biggest drags on the index. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shanima A. Editing by Eric Meijer)

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