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Australia: Energy stocks lift shares; a2 Milk drags on New Zealand

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Australian shares edged up on Monday, buoyed by energy stocks and tracking positive Wall Street leads after strong US economic data, while a2 Milk weighed on the New Zealand index after a surprise CEO exit.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged up on Monday, buoyed by energy stocks and tracking positive Wall Street leads after strong US economic data, while a2 Milk weighed on the New Zealand index after a surprise CEO exit.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.1 per cent, or 89.2 points, to 6,716.20 by 0045 GMT. The benchmark was up 0.4 per cent on Friday.

US equities jumped on Friday after jobs growth in the world's largest economy increased by the most in 10 months in November, easing fears of a slowdown.

"The health of the US economy appears to be confirmed on that one data point," said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut.

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He added however that markets may not go too far due to issues such as weak Chinese export data released on Sunday, and with no substantial news on the trade front.

A top White House official on Friday said the Dec 15 deadline is still in place for a new round of US tariffs on Chinese goods, but President Donald Trump likes where trade talks with China are going.

"There is quite a lot of talking and not a lot of detail," Argonaut's Rooney said.

Energy stocks advanced as much as 1.6 per cent as sector heavyweights Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search climbed 1.7 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively.

Oil prices jumped on Friday after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to deepen crude output cuts in early 2020.

Petroleum retailer Viva Energy Group, however, slumped 6.6 per cent as it warned that it expects fiscal 2019 underlying net profit to fall by up to 41 per cent from a year earlier due to fuel-margin pressures.

The mining sub-index rose as top iron ore miners BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group added between 0.9 per cent and 1.2 per cent.

Analysts are optimistic about demand from Chinese mills for the steel-making material in coming months, even though the country's iron ore imports fell for a second straight month in November.

Gold stocks dropped as much as 2.9 per cent to a near six-month low on falling bullion prices. Newcrest Mining slipped 3 per cent and Evolution Mining fell 4.4 per cent.

Administrative services provider Mcmillan Shakespeare plunged 13 per cent and was the worst performer on the ASX benchmark after it flagged tougher market conditions.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index declined as much as 0.8 per cent in early trade, before settling down 0.2 per cent to 11,255.21 at 0045 GMT.

Dairy giant a2 Milk Company slumped by up to 7.7 per cent after it said chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka had unexpectedly stepped down from the role she took in July 2018.

REUTERS