April 17, 2018 / 3:11 AM / 4 days ago

Australia shares edge higher on boost from materials; NZ down

* Aussie shares led higher by miners as aluminium prices firm

* AMP limits gains, down 4.4 pct

* NZ down 0.3 pct, with telcos, dairy stocks in red

By Chris Thomas

April 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Tuesday, supported by the materials and consumer sectors even as some pressure was exerted by a slide in wealth manager AMP Ltd in the wake of fresh revelations from a judicial inquiry about misdeeds in the industry.

Sentiment overall was also bolstered by gains on Wall Street as the focus shifted to corporate earnings and economic data from China amid signs Western-led strikes on Syria were a one-off event.

Official data showed GDP growth in China - Australia’s major trading partner - came in at 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2018 from a year earlier, slightly above expectations and unchanged from the previous quarter.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 percent or 15.4 points to 5,856.7 by 0232 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.2 percent on Monday.

Strong aluminium prices lifted miner South32 Ltd as much as 2.5 percent to a two-month high, and Alumina Ltd 4.1 percent to a nine-and-a-half year top.

Concerns about aluminium supply after Rio Tinto declared force majeure on some customer contracts in the wake of sanctions imposed by the United States on its Russian partner Rusal pushed aluminium prices to their highest since 2011.

Whitehaven Coal rose as much as 4.9 percent after it said strong demand for thermal coal propped up third-quarter sales.

Wesfarmers Ltd was among the top contributors to the index, up as much as 1.7 percent after it confirmed it did not own shares in troubled New Zealand builder Fletcher Building .

Gains were tempered by falls in Australia’s largest wealth manager AMP Ltd.

AMP dropped 4.4 percent after an inquiry heard the company lied to the country’s corporate watchdog for almost a decade to cover its widespread practice of charging customers for services it did not provide.

The inquiry began last month and is currently focusing on the provision of financial advice by AMP and the four largest banks - Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank , and Westpac Banking Corp.

Shares of CBA, however, were up as much as 0.7 percent.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.3 percent or 20.97 points to 8,385.38, dragged by telecom, dairy, and industrial stocks.

Spark New Zealand fell as much as 1.2 percent, while a2 Milk Company shed 1.3 percent.

Auckland International Airport slipped 0.9 percent. (Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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