* Materials, financials help Aussie benchmark higher
* U.S. imposes sanctions on Russian producer United Company Rusal; Aluminium gains
* Bauxite miner Alumina touches seven year-high
* Australian health care stocks decline
By Aaron Saldanha
April 10 - Australia shares rose on Tuesday as higher metal prices spurred buying of resources shares such as aluminium and iron ore producers.
Sentiment was also buoyed by comments by President Xi Jinping who promised to open China’s markets further to foreign companies and investors, helping to soothe investor jitters over an escalating U.S.-China trade row.
The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.8 percent, or 46 points, to 5,854.7 by 0255 GMT. It rose 0.4 percent on Monday.
Materials stocks gained after Shanghai aluminium prices touched a five week-high after U.S. sanctions were imposed on Russian aluminium major United Company Rusal.
The most-traded May aluminium contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange climbed as much as 1.5 percent while the most-traded iron ore for September delivery on the Dalian Commodity Exchange was up 2.4 percent.
“There are issues with aluminium markets, specifically with the Russian supply side and that is a short term spike, but overall, I think that will have some effect,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist, Blue Ocean Equities.
Global miner BHP was up as much as 1 percent while Rio Tinto was trading 2.3 percent higher.
Bauxite miner and refiner Alumina Ltd climbed as much as 4.7 percent to its highest in seven years. Australia’s mining index rose 1.8 percent, set to end higher for a third consecutive session.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia was the biggest contributor to the benchmark’s performance, rising as much as 1.1 percent. The lender’s peers also rose, with the financial index’s gain of 1 percent making the sector the biggest contributor to the wider market’s performance.
Health care stocks were the only losers on Tuesday, after being among the top contributors to the market’s gain the previous day.
“The health care stocks were overvalued, on the concept that currency will fall, but everyone has got into that substantially crowded trading, so that’s unwinding,” added Blue Ocean Equities’ Somasundaram.
On Monday, Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG agreed to buy U.S. gene therapy company AveXis Inc for $8.7 billion, leading to Australian health care stocks rallying.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 percent, or 16 points, to 8,470.13, helped by health care and industrials.
Ryman Healthcare Ltd gained as much as 2.8 percent while telecommunication services firm Spark New Zealand Ltd was up to 0.6 percent higher. (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha, Additional reporting by Karthika Namboothiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)