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Australia: Shares buoyed by consumer sentiment, energy stocks weigh


[Sydney] Australian shares rose 0.3 per cent on Tuesday, underpinned by stronger consumer sentiment and tracking Wall Street higher, but weak energy shares tempered broader gains.

Investors bought into battered mining and financial stocks.

Three of the 'Big Four' banks gained, with Westpac Banking Corp adding 0.4 per cent and Commonwealth Bank of Australia up 1.1 per cent. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group bucked the trend, shedding 0.1 per cent.

A measure of Australian consumer sentiment rose in October, steadying from a sharp fall in the previous month as households signalled they were more confident about the longer-term economic outlook.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 14.7 points to 5,222.2 by 0224 GMT after reaching a session high of 5,252.8. The benchmark rose 1 per cent on Tuesday.

The benchmark index hit an eight-month trough of 5,122.0 on Oct 13 and has since rebounded modestly from that support level as investors bought into battered stocks. The S&P/ASX 200 dumped almost 6 per cent in September as a rout in iron ore prices, concerns about global growth and a rise in bond yields left investors scurrying into other assets. "In a positive sign for the bulls, the current sell-off is beginning to look technically overdone," said Tim Radford, global investment manager at Rivkin Securities in a note to clients. "The VIX volatility index is at historically overbought levels." Among miners, Rio Tinto Ltd rose 0.1 per cent as it reported a strong third quarter, with a 12 per cent rise in iron ore production, while rival BHP Billiton added 0.5 per cent.

Elsewhere, energy stocks undercut the market as oil dived more than US$4 a barrel overnight, its biggest drop in more than two years. Australia's top oil and gas producer, Woodside Petroleum slipped 0.2 per cent, while Caltex Australia Ltd was down 0.7 per cent.

Radford said the recent sell-off in global equities and crude oil markets reflects increasing concerns about global economic growth as well as the rising risk of deflation, especially in the euro zone.

Whitehaven Coal Ltd tumbled 3.2 per cent, after the company said it was in talks with contractors to speed up construction on its Maules Creek coal project.

The Reject Shop Ltd added 3 per cent, underpinned by company sales for the first quarter climbing 2.7 per cent on the prior period.

REA Group Ltd was up 1.3 per cent after announcing the sale of its Hong Kong business to iProperty.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX50 index edged up 19.3 points, or 0.37 per cent to 5,165.10 as a 3 per cent rise in Australian food manufacturer Goodman Fielder helped to pull the index back from an eight-week low hit on Tuesday.

Building materials manufacturer Fletcher Building rose 1.8 per cent to NZ$8.73 (US$6.83) after a slide in New Zealand's largest listed company to a nine-month low of NZ$8.48 on Tuesday prompted investors to scoop up shares.

Overall gains were limited by a 2 per cent slide in Refining New Zealand to NZ$1.68. The refiner pulled further away from a three-month high of NZ$1.73 touched earlier this week as investors awaited the outcome of labour negotiations after the company narrowly avoided a strike last week.