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Australia: Shares edge up, buoyed by industrials, energy

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares, which have risen the past four days, were up again early Tuesday, helped by gains in energy and industrials, while New Zealand stocks also advanced.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.1 per cent or 6.05 points to 5,115.6 by 02:16 GMT. The benchmark has rallied nearly 2 per cent since touching a two-year trough last week.

Industrial shares led the charge with defence ship manufacturer Austal Ltd up 4.7 per cent after clinching a contract with the US navy for designing vessels. Austal's stock prices touched a 1-year low last week.

Also with the wind in its sail was rail freight operator Aurizon Holdings Ltd which bounced 1.7 per cent, pulling away from seven-month lows.

The energy sector outperformed after oil futures jumped away from 2009 lows. Caltex Australia rose 2.5 per cent, while Oil Search added 1.7 per cent and Woodside Petroleum 0.7 per cent.

However, Origin was down 0.2 per cent after it revealed plans to reduce its exposure to low oil prices.

Evan Lucas, market analyst at IG, predicts another tough year ahead for oil prices, seeing US$20 a barrel "probable" in the first half of 2016. US crude futures and Brent futures last hovered near US$34 to $37 a barrel.

The country's "Big Four" banks - Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and National Australia Bank - fell as much as 1 per cent.

Miners remained in the red even though the price of iron ore showed more signs of stabilisation following a recent tumble. Rio Tinto was down 0.2 per cent and BHP Billiton 0.1 per cent lower.

For more individual stocks activity, click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index was up 0.3 per cent or 21.14 points to 6,141.96 as sentiment was lifted when U.S. stocks ended stronger. Trading, however, was thin ahead of the Christmas holiday.

The biggest gainers included Fletcher Building, up 1.4 per cent and Spark, up 1.3 per cent.

The biggest losers included Diligent, trading down 3.2 per cent. A2 Milk was down 1.2 per cent, likely on profit-taking after strong recent gains.

REUTERS