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Australia: Shares near 9-month peak, NZ stocks scales all-time high

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares held near nine-month peaks on Monday, as a rebound in oil prices offset weakness in the mining sector, while New Zealand stocks scaled a record high, putting both indices on track for a 3 per cent monthly gain.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.1 per cent or 4 points to 5,410 by 2.29pm (0429 GMT), not far from an August 2014 peak of 5,427.7 touched on Friday. The benchmark has leapt 3 per cent so far in May in the third consecutive month of gain.

Energy firms marked sizable gains as oil prices held near 8-month peaks. Shares in LNG and WorleyParsons rose nearly 5 per cent each, while Santos added 1.3 per cent.

Cleaning company Spotless Group Holdings jumped 6.2 per cent after it reaffirmed its earnings forecast and announced it may be selling its laundry business.

Australian packaged food supplier Patties Foods Ltd exploded 17 per cent higher to reach a three-year peak after receiving a A$230 million (S$228 million) takeover bid from private equity firm Pacific Equity Partners (PEP).

On the negative ledger, miners struggled as gold prices shaved 1 per cent after comments by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen reinforced expectations of a US interest rate hike.

BHP Billiton fell 0.4 per cent, while fellow global miner Newcrest shed 2.3 per cent.

Banks also came under pressure with Commonwealth Bank of Australia off 1 per cent, while Australia & New Zealand Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac Bank shed around 0.21 per cent.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index scaled a fresh all-time high. It added 0.4 per cent or 26.2 points to 7,018.82 with the index having jumped 11 per cent so far this year.

The biggest gainers were Air New Zealand AIR.NZ, which rose 3.2 per cent and insurance company Tower, which rose 3.07 per cent.

Technology stocks also did well with accounting software company Xero up 1.71 per cent and online auction site Trade Me. up 1.49 per cent.

Steel product manufacturer Steel Tube lost 1.47 per cent while telecommunications provider Spark New Zealand fell 1.34 per cent.