Australia shares buoyed by miners; NZ rebounds

[BENGALURU] Mining stocks drove Australian shares higher on Monday after iron ore and copper prices jumped, with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto accounting for most of the gains.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 27.59 points, or 0.5 per cent , to 5,748.2 by 0045 GMT with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto rising 2.1 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively.

"It is the miners (driving the gains) to an extent. The material sector is the strongest performing sector. A lot of the strength is coming from the materials but there are other pockets of strengths in the market as well," said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.

"Australian companies are doing quite well despite a somewhat challenging environment globally," Mr Conway added.

Chinese iron ore futures jumped nearly 8 per cent on Friday to their highest level in three years, lifted by news that January imports into the world's second largest economy surged on the back of a sharp uptick in demand from steel mills.

Copper prices also rose, soaring to their highest in over 20 months on Friday, after BHP Billiton declared force majeure due to a strike at the world's biggest copper mine in Chile.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd advanced 4.2 per cent, extending gains into a second session, while OZ Minerals Ltd jumped as much as 5.2 per cent to hit a near five-year high.

The benchmark index also got a lift from strong earnings of companies in other sectors, such as retailer JB Hi-Fi Ltd, which jumped 5.8 per cent after it reported a 24 per cent jump in sales for the six-months ended Dec 31.

Rail freight company Aurizon Holdings Ltd rose as much as 5.4 per cent to touch a more than one-year high after it reported an 18 per cent rise in its first half underlying profit.

Newcrest Mining Ltd, Australia's top gold miner, was up 1.5 per cent after it said it quadrupled its half-year underlying profit on the back of stronger gold prices and cost cuts.

Rubber products maker Ansell Ltd defied the rally, falling more than 3 per cent after it posted a flat profit growth for its half-year ended Dec 31.

Seven constituent stock in the benchmark index posted fresh 52-week highs on Monday.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 per cent or 27.38 points to 7,131.81, with utilities and materials stocks accounting for most of the gains.

Contact Energy was the biggest gainer, rising 3.1 per cent after it reported a 12 per cent rise in its first-half underlying profit.

Fletcher Building and Metro Performance Glass were among the other gainers, rising 1.9 per cent and 1.3 per cent respectively.


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