October 5, 2017 / 1:57 AM / a year ago

Australia shares edge up tracking Wall Street; NZ hits record high

Oct 5 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged up on Thursday, tracking Wall Street higher, with the gains fairly broad based, driven by material and consumer stocks, while New Zealand shares hit an all-time high aided by consumer stocks.

U.S. stocks edged up to extend their run of record closing highs on Wednesday as strong services sector data added to signs of strength in the economy and boosted earnings prospects.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index was up 13.342 points, or 0.2 percent to 5,664.2 by 0155 GMT.

Australia’s goods and services trade surplus grew to A$989 million ($775 million) versus the expected A$875 million, and July’s trade surplus of A$460 million.

The gain was thanks largely to a 10 percent rebound in iron ore, Australia’s single biggest export earner.

Mining stocks, which had been under pressure in the previous session, drove gains with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto adding 0.9 percent and 1.8 percent respectively.

The materials index was also boosted by gold stocks, with Newcrest mining gaining 1.3 percent.

“Gold stocks are used by short term traders as a proxy for the underlying commodity and it appears that they have collectively decided that given the lower level of gold prices, the balance of risk has shifted to the upside of gold and therefore the gold sector,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Laggards for the past three sessions, retailers Wesfarmers and Woolworths gained, up 0.7 percent and 0.2 percent respectively, shrugging off data that showed retail sales for August fell 0.6 percent against the expected 0.3 percent rise.

“It’s the index trading that is dominating the action in the market today. So it is general buying rather than sector specific,” McCarthy said.

Financial and energy stocks were among the losers, with the “Big Four” banks each losing more than 0.4 percent. The S&P 500 Financial (Sector) index ended 0.3 percent lower in the previous session.

Among oil stocks, Woodside Petroleum declined 0.4 percent, while Origin Energy lost 0.7 percent. Oil prices fell on Wednesday after a surprising jump in U.S. crude exports to a record 2 million barrels per day fanned worries about global oversupply.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.4 percent, or 31.26 points, to hit an all-time high at 7,980.95.

Strong consumer and telecom stocks pushed New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 index gains. Market darling a2 Milk was up 4.7 percent, hitting all-time high of NZ$7.21, while Spark New Zealand rose as much as 1.7 percent, posting its biggest one-day gain in nearly a month.

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$1 = 1.3978 New Zealand dollars $1 = 1.2765 Australian dollars Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru

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