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Australia, New Zealand: Shares lower despite energy stocks spike


[BENGALURU] A sharp jump in energy stocks on the back of a surge in global oil prices was not quite enough to lift the Australian market on Monday, as the heavyweight financial index dragged on the bourse amid caution on global growth.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.03 per cent or 1.9 points lower at 6,667.30 by 0256 GMT. The benchmark had inched 0.2 per cent higher on Friday.

Oil prices spiked by about 11 per cent after two plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry were attacked on Saturday, knocking out more than 5 per cent of the global oil supply.

Australian energy stocks jumped as much as 5.9 per cent to a near four-month peak. Oil and gas major Woodside Petroleum climbed as much as about 8 per cent to a six-week high, while Santos rose nearly 9 per cent to its higest level since late 2014.

Conversely, financial stocks, which constitute more than three quarters of the Australian benchmark, slipped almost 1 per cent with all of the "Big Four" banks - Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp, National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group - trading lower.

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"While the net effect on the energy sector can be positive from a margin perspective, higher oil prices in general put a drag on economic growth", said Marc Kennis, principal of Pitt Street Research.

Gold stocks gained almost 3 per cent as prices for the precious metal rose in safe haven buying. Gold miner Northern Star Resources jumped as much as 7.6 per cent after the company said it would invest US$30 million to expand the processing plant at its Pogo gold mine in Alaska.

The broader mining index, rose almost 2 per cent on higher iron ore and nickel prices. BHP Group climbed as much as 6 per cent to its highest in nearly seven weeks.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched 0.2 per cent, or 17.8 points, lower to 10,845.65.

Electricity retailer Meridian Energy fell 2.9 per cent to its lowest in two weeks, while airline operator Air New Zealand shed 2 per cent to hit a low of slightly over three months.


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