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Australia: Shares rise as utilities outperform; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged higher on Tuesday, buoyed by a more than 1 percent rise in the utilities sector, although gains were capped by weakness in materials and telecommunication stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 per cent or 13.13 points to 6,001.90 by 01.36 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.1 per cent on Monday.

"The situation this morning is quite interesting. It appears to me that buyers are seeing a bit of value after recent softness in the market. We are seeing just general buying, it is not really news specific," said Michael McCarthy, Chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

"There's a reason we can finish at the right side of 6,000, but today's not an obvious day so I don't have a huge amount of confidence".

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Utilities was the best-performing sector on the index, with Origin Energy Ltd driving most of the gains.

Origin's shares rose to a more than 2-year high after it said it was targeting cost reductions at its Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) liquefied natural gas project and reaffirmed its full-year 2018 earnings forecast.

APA Group and AusNet Services Ltd also lent support to the sector, rising 1.4 per cent and 1.7 per cent, respectively.

Healthcare stocks were also in the black, with the Australian healthcare index climbing 1 per cent to a record high and on track for a ninth consecutive session of gains.

Blood products maker CSL Ltd accounted for most of the gains on the benchmark S&P/ASX 200.

The financials sector that accounts for about 40 per cent of the benchmark was trading flat.

Heavyweight Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.3 per cent, while National Australia Bank Ltd fell 0.6 per cent.

Materials accounted for most of the losses, with the Australian metals and miners index falling 0.6 per cent on weaker commodities prices.

Nickel prices fell nearly 4 per cent on Monday, while iron ore surrendered early gains to end lower.

Mining giant BHP was the biggest loser on the benchmark and fell 1.7 per cent.

Telecommunication services also led the fall, driven by a slump in Telstra Corp which fell 1.6 per cent to its lowest since Oct 6.

"I think the stock is falling due to two reasons. There has been news in the past few days that NBN has delayed the rollout of part of Telstra services. Also, the stock has been under pressure generally from the past few months," said Mr McCarthy.

Telstra on Monday noted an announcement from Australia's National Broadband Network Co that it would cease sales on hybrid fibre co-axial (HFC) technology for six to nine months from Dec 11.

Telstra's FY18 guidance to the market included an assumption that the NBN rollout would be broadly in accordance with the NBN Corporate Plan 2017.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4 per cent or 34.64 points to 8,140.33.

Consumer non-cyclicals were the top losers, with dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd dipping 2.2 per cent.

REUTERS

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