October 5, 2018 / 2:41 AM / in 17 days

Australia shares up, financials attempt to steady after selloff; NZ down

* Financials up for 2nd session, but down over 1 pct on week

* Energy stocks gain as oil prices rise

* NZ falls to near 1-month low

By Nikhil Nainan

Oct 5 (Reuters) - Australian shares advanced on Friday as the scandal-hit financial sector attempted a tentative recovery, with some investors picking them for their juicy dividends at relatively cheaper levels following a searing sell-off in recent weeks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 percent or 20 points to 6,196.4 by 0200 GMT, though remained on track for a small weekly loss.

“The absence of the Chinese investors is one factor, that would potentially be taking profit in the current environment,” said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets and Stockbroking.

Chinese markets have been closed all week for national holidays.

Financial stocks added to the previous sessions gains to be up 0.7 percent, though for the week the index is down 1.2 percent so far, reflecting relentless pressure after a months-long inquiry revealed widespread misconduct in the sector.

“Given the risks involved, the share prices have fallen to levels where in relation, the dividend yields are quite enticing to investors for banks,” said McCarthy, referring to the risks posed by the Royal Commission outcomes.

“Banks have dividend yields of 8-10 percent currently and interest rates close to 2 pct, some investors will see that as attractive.”

The country’s number two lender Westpac Banking Corp rose 0.7 percent, leading the gainers among the Big Four, while hard-hit AMP Ltd also rose by the same amount.

Resource stocks, led by energy firms, picked up as oil prices clawed back losses from Thursday, but gains were capped by Beach Energy Ltd, the biggest percentage loser on the energy sub-index.

Beach Energy fell as much as 7.3 percent to an over one week low, as it cut its fiscal year 2019 production and core earnings guidance.

Beach had also announced the sale of a 40 percent stake in its Victorian Otway gas assets for A$344 million ($243 million).

Among miners, Alumina Ltd dropped 1.3 percent as aluminium prices retreated on Thursday after touching monthly highs, which saw the firm’s shares close at a 10-year high in the previous session.

Global miners BHP and Rio Tinto rose 0.6 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

Gold stocks jumped 1.7 percent, led by St Barbara , which surged 6.2 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slid 0.6 percent or 55.74 points to 9,201.44.

a2 Milk Company fell 2.7 percent to its lowest since the start of August, while Synlait Milk, a company that a2 owns a stake in and tends to mirror a2’s performance, fell 5.6 percent. For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan, additional reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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