January 12, 2018 / 2:04 AM / 2 months ago

Australia shares rise as supply concerns support iron ore firms; utilities lift NZ

* Australian shares up 0.3 pct, buoyed by miners, but head for weekly loss

* Strong iron ore, oil prices boost material stocks

* Utilities, industrials lift New Zealand benchmark 0.3 pct

By Chris Thomas

Jan 12 (Reuters) - Iron ore miners pushed Australian shares higher on Friday with heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto scaling multi-year peaks as storm disruptions in the nation’s northwest drove up prices of the raw metal.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 percent, or 10.4 points, to 6,078 by 0037 GMT, but is headed for a weekly loss. The benchmark lost 0.5 percent on Thursday.

Spot iron ore .IO62-CNO=MB rose 1 percent to its strongest level in nearly five months overnight, boosted by the possibility of supply tightening due to threat from a tropical cyclone in Australia.

Australia’s metals and mining index climbed as much as 2 pct to its highest in nearly 5 years.

“The recent cyclone and China property optimism are driving iron ore higher,” Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities, said in a note.

BHP rose as much as 2.6 percent, its biggest spike in over nine weeks, to touch its best level since November 2014, while Rio Tinto advanced 2.4 percent to a near six-and-a-half year top.

Oil prices also lent support to material stocks after Brent crude settled at three-year highs on signs that global inventories were tightening.

BHP, the largest miner in the world by market value, also has a large exposure to oil.

Gains were capped by financials, however, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group both shedding 0.6 percent.

Retail giants Wesfarmers Ltd and Woolworths Group Ltd pulled the consumer staples sector into the red, falling as much as 1.1 percent each.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose as much as 0.3 percent to 8,274.8, but is set to log its worst week in over a year.

Utilities and industrial stocks accounted for most of the gains of the index, with Infratil Ltd marking its sharpest climb in over 10 weeks.

Healthcare stocks capped the gains on the index, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd declining 1.4 percent to a five-week trough in its fifth straight session of losses. (Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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