August 22, 2017 / 3:00 AM / a year ago

Australia shares up as BHP jumps after strong profits; NZ slightly up

Aug 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged up on Tuesday thanks to some encouraging results including for BHP Billiton, whose stock jumped after the global miner posted robust annual earnings and said it was putting its U.S. shale assets for sale.

The S&P/ASX 200 index tacked on 13.95 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5739.20 by 0217 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.4 percent on Monday.

BHP climbed nearly 2 percent to its highest in almost two weeks after the company reported a five-fold rise in full year underlying profit to $6.7 billion.

Although it missed forecasts, a recovery in industrial commodities markets allowed BHP to triple its final dividend to $0.43 and cut its debt levels. The mining giant is also putting its U.S. shale assets up for sale.

“People are looking at the positives in BHP’s results,” said Chris Weston, an institutional dealer with IG Markets

“The earnings itself was softer than what the market was looking for, but they’re also looking at the cash flow, they’re looking at the potential for asset sales and how that will potentially impact the bottom line going forward as well.”

Elsewhere, the materials sector was buoyed by rising price of iron ore - Australia’s biggest single export earner.

China’s iron ore futures rose for a third day on Monday, gaining more than 6 percent while zinc prices climbed to their highest in nearly a decade as expectations of a large market deficit this year fuelled speculative buying.

Iron ore futures have climbed 10.8 percent over the past three sessions, the biggest three-day percentage gain since the three days ended Feb. 14, 2017

Major miners Fortescue Metals Group climbed 2.4 percent to its highest in over four months and Rio Tinto was up 1.2 percent.

Sydney Airport Holdings rose 5 percent to its highest in almost two months after it reported a 7.9 percent rise in half-year revenue and reaffirmed its five-year capital expenditure guidance

Shares of Oil and gas producer Oil Search Ltd gained 4.4 percent after the company reported a surge in half-year profit

Bucking the trend, consumer staples and financial stocks were lower with Australia’s retail-to-mining conglomerate Wesfarmers Ltd dropping more than 3 percent and Advertising services provider APN Outdoor Group Ltd falling 6.8 percent.

The financials index was down 0.3 percent with the “Big Four” banks slipping between 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent.

“If you look at the financial sector, there’s no real reason to be putting new money where there’s no news to price in” said Weston.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 17 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7884.62 by 0216 GMT.

Telecom and Utilities stocks lifted the benchmark the most, with Spark New Zealand gaining 1 percent and Meridian Energy Ltd climbing as much as 1.7 percent.

Reporting by Chandini Monnappa; Additional reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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