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Australian, New Zealand: Shares edge higher, extend week-long rise

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[SYDNEY] Australian and New Zealand shares edged higher on Monday, despite fears events in France and Turkey would weigh on stocks.

New Zealand shares held near record highs, while the Australian index extended its rally to an eighth straight session, although volumes were low.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 27.83 points to 5,457.4, a gain of 0.51 per cent by 0242 GMT. The benchmark hit an 11-month high on Friday, and gained almost four per cent last week - its biggest weekly gain in more than three months.

Australia's Small Ordinaries index posted its ninth straight positive session, driven by investors seeking opportunities away from underperforming large financial stocks. It reached a four-year high on Monday.

"I think it's a bit of biding your time and markets are basically sitting around trying to work out what's going to come through," said Mathan Somasundaram, a quantitative analyst at stockbroker Baillieu Holst.

"We've got deflationary pressures in New Zealand and that's an obvious read-through to Australia, where inflation figures are due next week and the expectations are that will be weak and we will get a rate cut," he said.

Miner Whitehaven Coal Ltd extended gains, rising as much as 6.6 per cent to reach a 21-month high on news that Deutsche Bank had raised its target price on the stock.

Rare earths miner Lynas Corp Ltd surged 18.4 per cent to a four-month high after announcing a 30 per cent rise in sales volume in the June quarter, compared with the previous quarter.

Shares in Oil Search Ltd rose as much as 3.7 per cent, on news that the company's bid for Papua New Guinea-focused InterOil was topped by ExxonMobil Corp .

But overall the resources sector lost ground. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto shares each slipped 0.7 per cent while Fortescue Metals Group Ltd stocks lost 2.1 per cent.

Copper-gold miner Sandfire Resources NL fell 4.5 per cent and mining services company Mineral Resources Ltd lost 5.39 per cent.

Financial stocks rose, with Australia's Big Four banks posting modest gains.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was largely unchanged on Monday in tepid trading.

Forsyth Barr investment advisor Suzanne Kinnaird said with mixed offshore leads and a lack of domestic news the market was likely to continue treading water over the session.

The biggest gainers were Tower, which added 3.3 per cent while the biggest loser was Vector, which was down 1.2 per cent.

REUTERS