October 30, 2017 / 1:43 AM / in a year

Australian shares rise on oil talks boost; NZ gains most since Sept 26

Oct 30 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged slightly higher on Monday, tracking U.S. stocks as a rise in oil prices to their highest in more than two years helped the market weather Australia’s political malaise.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 13.743 points to 5,916.90 by 100 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.2 percent on Friday after a court decision ruling Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce ineligible to hold his parliamentary seat cost the government its majority.

Financials pushed the index up the most, rising as much as 0.3 percent as banking stocks took in the outcomes of a regulatory investigation into the rigging of the bank bill swap reference rate (BBSW).

Westpac Banking Corp, the country’s No. 2 lender is the only bank named in the case yet to decide whether to settle with the regulator after National Australia Bank and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, which were up 0.1 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively, did so before Monday’s deadline.

“It is obviously not great for reputation but investors have had a good chance to react to this news and they have probably done their due diligence on all these banks and what would be the potential risks behind these cases,” said Christopher Gore, a sales trader with IG Markets.

Oil explorer Beach Energy gained as much as 3.1 percent, the biggest driver of the main index, while the energy index reached its highest since August 2015, helped by Woodside’s 1.8 percent gain.

Brent crude futures rose 0.3 percent as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reiterated on Saturday the kingdom’s readiness to support a production cut ahead of a meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC producers on Nov. 30 to set oil policy.

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto slipped 0.2 percent each on weaker prices for iron ore in key market China. Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange slumped 5.6 percent on Friday, reflecting steel mills cutting output to comply with winter anti-pollution regulations.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5 percent, or 38.01 points, to 8,123 as consumer staples and utilities posted their biggest gains since Sept. 28, just after the general election was held.

Dairy major A2 Milk drove the index’s gains, rising as much as 2.7 percent to a record high. Up to Friday’s close, the stock has more than tripled its price in the year to date.

Reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Saif Naqvi; Editing by Eric Meijer

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