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Australia shares up as BHP jumps after strong profits; NZ slightly up

[SYDNEY] Australian shares edged up on Tuesday thanks to some encouraging results including for BHP Billiton, whose stock jumped after the global miner posted robust annual earnings and said it was putting its US shale assets for sale.

The S&P/ASX 200 index tacked on 13.95 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 5739.20 by 0217 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.4 per cent on Monday.

BHP climbed nearly 2 per cent to its highest in almost two weeks after the company reported a five-fold rise in full year underlying profit to US$6.7 billion.

Although it missed forecasts, a recovery in industrial commodities markets allowed BHP to triple its final dividend to US$0.43 and cut its debt levels. The mining giant is also putting its US shale assets up for sale.

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Market voices on:

"People are looking at the positives in BHP's results," said Chris Weston, an institutional dealer with IG Markets.

"The earnings itself was softer than what the market was looking for, but they're also looking at the cash flow, they're looking at the potential for asset sales and how that will potentially impact the bottom line going forward as well."

Elsewhere, the materials sector was buoyed by rising price of iron ore - Australia's biggest single export earner.

China's iron ore futures rose for a third day on Monday, gaining more than 6 per cent while zinc prices climbed to their highest in nearly a decade as expectations of a large market deficit this year fuelled speculative buying.

Iron ore futures have climbed 10.8 per cent over the past three sessions, the biggest three-day percentage gain since the three days ended Feb 14, 2017. Major miners Fortescue Metals Group climbed 2.4 per cent to its highest in over four months and Rio Tinto was up 1.2 per cent.

Sydney Airport Holdings rose 5 per cent to its highest in almost two months after it reported a 7.9 per cent rise in half-year revenue and reaffirmed its five-year capital expenditure guidance. Shares of oil and gas producer Oil Search Ltd gained 4.4 per cent after the company reported a surge in half-year profit.

Bucking the trend, consumer staples and financial stocks were lower with Australia's retail-to-mining conglomerate Wesfarmers Ltd dropping more than 3 per cent and Advertising services provider APN Outdoor Group Ltd falling 6.8 per cent.

The financials index was down 0.3 per cent with the "Big Four" banks slipping between 0.2 per cent and 0.7 per cent.

"If you look at the financial sector, there's no real reason to be putting new money where there's no news to price in" said Mr Weston.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 17 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 7884.62 by 0216 GMT.

Telecom and Utilities stocks lifted the benchmark the most, with Spark New Zealand gaining one per cent and Meridian Energy Ltd climbing as much as 1.7 per cent.

REUTERS

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