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Aussie, NZ shares edge up on French vote, weaker ore price hurts miners

[BENGALURU] Australia shares edged up on Monday to their highest level in two weeks, as markets globally drew relief from centrist Emmanuel Macron winning the French presidential election's first round, but mining shares fell due to weaker metal prices.

Investors globally have been uneasy over the rise Marine Le Pen, the far right leader who wants to take France out of the European Union, and while she will be Mr Macron's opponent in the run-off, latest opinion polls show Mr Macron is likely to emerge as the victor from the vote on May 7.

"Macron wants to stay with the EU, which reflects steadiness in markets. The fact that he has won, and the fact that he is a centre left candidate, means he has got quite a good chance of winning, which is what markets are hoping for now," said Tony Farnham, economist at Paterson Securities.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 9.26 points or 0.16 per cent to 5,863.2 by 0258 GMT.

All four big banks were among the top gainers on the benchmark, adding around 0.2 per cent to the overall gains.

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Insurers also added gains, and lifted the financials index to its highest in two weeks. General insurer Steadfast Group hit a record high after rising as much as 1 per cent.

Oil majors rose, lifting the energy index 0.32 per cent on the back of firmer oil prices which recovered from last week's big losses, driven by expectations that OPEC will extend a pledge to cut output in 2017.

Qantas Airways and rival Virgin Australia also contributed to the uptrend, rising 1.5 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively.

Drags on the index came from iron miners BHP Billiton , Fortescue Metals and Rio Tinto after the most-active iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange fell 2 per cent.

Gold miners Evolution Mining, Newcrest Mining, OceanaGold and Alacer Gold Corp slumped on a dip in the gold price.

Coca-Cola Amatil slumped as much as 4.4 per cent to its lowest in five months following earnings guidance on Friday for a weak performance in the first half of 2017.

Grocery giant Wesfarmers slipped 0.5 per cent, while rival Woolworths rose half a per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.42 per cent or 30.16 points to 7,227.38, led by consumer discretionary and material stocks.

The country's biggest listed construction company, Fletcher Building led gains, followed by telecom company Chorus Ltd, which rose as much as 3.56 per cent.


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