March 18, 2019 / 12:38 AM / 7 months ago

Australian shares bolstered by miners; NZ inches up to record high

* Aussie financials snap 6-day losing streak

* NZ hits record high in diminished trade

By Ambar Warrick

March 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Monday as stronger commodity prices lifted iron ore miners and gains on Wall Street boosted investor confidence.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 percent or 17.5 points to 6,192.70 by 0019 GMT. The benchmark had ended flat on Friday.

Wall Street had surged on Friday as a report on progress in U.S.-China trade talks lifted sentiment.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said Washington and Beijing were making substantive progress on trade talks, providing relief after news that a summit to seal a deal between the two sides would not happen in March.

Australia’s metals and mining sub-index rose about 1.3 percent, with iron ore miners BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group firming in the range of 1 percent to 3 percent.

Iron ore prices in China, Australia’s largest resource market, rose on Friday amid reports of local steel mills being allowed to resume certain emission-heavy activities.

Gold stocks also strengthened after bullion prices rallied overnight against a weaker dollar. Newcrest Mining , the largest gold producer in Australia, gained 1.2 percent.

Lithium miner Pilbara Minerals added about 1.4 percent after its board exercised an option to manufacture battery-making materials with steel-maker Posco by setting up a lithium processing plant in South Korea.

Financial stocks, the largest sector in Australia, tracked their Wall Street peers higher. The subindex added about 0.2 percent after a six-session losing streak.

Three of the big four banks were higher, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the largest, declined about 0.2 percent.

CBA agreed to withdraw from all proceedings with the Australian Taxation Office regarding certain research and development claims made in 2012 and 2013.

Industrial stocks also lent some support, with contract miner CIMIC Group gaining more than 1 percent after its unit secured a A$1.7 billion ($1.20 billion) mining contract in Botswana.

New Zealand shares inched up to a record high in thin trade, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rising 0.2 percent or 15.69 points to 9,488.96.

Industrials and consumer stocks led gains, while a decline in financial stocks weighed down the index.

Flag carrier Air New Zealand and milk producer Fonterra rose about 0.9 percent each, while the New Zealand-listed shares of Westpac Banking Corp dipped 2 percent.

Trading volumes in the region were at a fraction of their 30-day average.

$1 = 1.4120 Australian dollars Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill

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