September 19, 2018 / 2:17 AM / in a month

Australia shares rise, led by materials, energy stocks; NZ flat

* Miners and energy stocks rise on higher commodity and oil prices

* BHP leads gains on the benchmark

* Synlait falls, offsets gains in NZ

By Aditya Soni

Sept 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares firmed on Wednesday, led by gains in materials and energy stocks as prices of commodities and oil rose on broad improvements in global investment sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 percent or 24.3 points to 6,185.80 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark dipped 0.4 percent on Tuesday.

Copper and iron ore prices rallied on Wednesday, shrugging off new tit-for-tat tariffs by China and the United States and bolstering demand for Australia’s miners-heavy materials sector.

The metals and mining index jumped 2.4 percent, its biggest intraday percentage gain since April 19. Mining stocks accounted for nearly half the gains on the benchmark.

BHP, the world’s biggest miner, firmed 2.2 percent to a two-week high and was the biggest boost to the benchmark, while its rival Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 2.6 percent to its highest since August 10.

A recovery in gold prices boosted miners of the precious metal. Newcrest Mining Ltd rose 1.5 percent, while St Barbara Ltd strengthened as much as 1.8 percent.

Energy stocks also advanced, helped by an overnight jump in oil prices.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd, the country’s biggest listed oil and gas explorer, rose 0.8 percent, while Santos Ltd firmed 2.5 percent to a more than three-year high.

Meanwhile, banks, which are benchmark heavyweights, traded in a thin range while the financials index reversed earlier losses to edge 0.1 percent higher.

“Its fairly a mixed and patchy performance from the sector, so many stocks are under the review of accounting queries through the Royal Commision, and the future remains quite uncertain”, said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

National Australia Bank (NAB) dipped 0.2 percent.

NAB said on Wednesday it had slashed remuneration for its executive team after a public inquiry uncovered evidence of misconduct at the bank and across the financial sector.

Drugmaker CSL Ltd, the country’s fifth biggest firm by market value, extended losses for a third straight session, falling 1.6 percent to a more than one-month low.

CSL has seen its stock climb to record highs this year, supported by strong results, however, the bio-therapeutics firm has fallen recently on profit-taking.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ticked up 0.1 percent or 12.00 points to 9,327.77.

Health care stocks lead the gainers, with Ryman Healthcare Ltd firming 0.9 percent.

However, Synlait Milk Ltd fell as much as 10 percent to a more than three-week low, offsetting the gains on the benchmark.

The dairy firm almost doubled full-year net profit but cut its forecast milk price for the current 2018-2019 season. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shanima A; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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