Australia: Shares edge higher on energy rally, NZ subdued

[SYDNEY] Australian shares inched up 0.4 per cent on Wednesday as a rally in oil prices boosted the energy sector, helping to offset persistent weakness in bank stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 17.7 points to 4,942.1 by 0205 GMT, pulling away from an early five-week low.

The energy sector rallied 2 per cent as oil prices gained on speculation some exporters will agree on limiting their output amid global oversupply.

Santos Ltd put on 3.9 per cent and Woodside Petroleum 1.9 per cent.

Westpac slipped 1.9 per cent after Australia's securities regulator started legal action against it for allegedly fixing the bank bill swap reference rate (BBSW), an allegation the bank rejected.

The drop took Westpac's shares down to A$28.60 and back toward lows touched in February in the A$27.69/83 zone. A break there would take it to ground not visited since mid-2013.

Shares in detention camp operator Broadspectrum Ltd rose 2.2 per cent in the wake of an improved takeover offer from Spanish infrastructure company Ferrovial SA.

BroadSpectrum rejected the bid, saying it undervalues the company.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.1 per cent or 6 points to 6,710.04.

The biggest gainers included Orion Health Group, up 4.9 per cent after it said it had signed a deal to supply Metro North, a state government health service provider in the Australian state of Queensland, with its management platform.

The stock had already rallied last week after announcing a contract with a US healthcare provider.

The biggest losers included Xero, down 1.9 per cent.

REUTERS

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