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Australia bank shares' gains offset slump in aged-care providers; NZ flat

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Monday as gains in financials outweighed a sharp fall in healthcare stocks which were hammered by the news of a public inquiry into the aged-care system.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 per cent or 19.70 points to 6,185.00 at the close of trade. The benchmark firmed 0.6 per cent on Friday.

Banks dominated the gains on Monday, with the financials index climbing 0.6 per cent.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd firmed 0.9 per cent and was among top supporters to the benchmark, while National Australia Bank Ltd (NAB) firmed 0.8 per cent.

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NAB announced on Monday the departure of its top consumer banking executive in the wake of a Royal Commission enquiry into the financial services sector that found widespread malpractice, including debiting life insurance premiums from dead people's accounts.

News that Australia will open a similar Royal Commission inquiry into the aged-care sector put pressure on the shares of aged-care service providers. The enquiry follows a spike in reports of abuse at aged-care homes.

Regis Healthcare Ltd plunged 17.1 per cent to a record low, while Estia Health Ltd slumped 18.6 per cent to its lowest since December 2016.

The wider healthcare index dipped 0.9 per cent. Drugmaker CSL Ltd dropped 1.1 per cent and was the top drag on the benchmark.

Materials also fell, hurt by a fall in iron ore futures and copper prices.

Miner BHP dipped 0.7 per cent, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd dropped 0.2 per cent.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.770 points to finish the session at 9,271.53.

Consumer staples rose, with a2 Milk Company Ltd rising 5 per cent to its highest since Sept. 6, offsetting the health care sector's losses.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd dropped 0.5 per cent.

REUTERS