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Australia, NZ: Shares climb with banks, as resources slump

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[MELBOURNE] Australian and New Zealand shares crawled higher by midday on Tuesday, as investors dumped mining and energy stocks on worries about China's growth and the rising US dollar and flocked to the major banks instead.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 5.4 points, or 0.1 per cent, to reach 5,326.10 by 0305 GMT, adding to Monday's gains.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia led the big four banks higher, jumping 2.4 per cent, while Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank rose more than one per cent and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group climbed 0.7 per cent.

Among the miners, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto fell more than 4 per cent, while Alumina Ltd and South32 dropped more than 6 per cent.

"This is a typical rotation out of resources into banks," said Sean Sequeira, a portfolio manager at Alleron Investment Management.

"While we do have an uptick in bad and doubtful debts, we still have banks on very, very good yields at these prices. And after we've had a very strong run in resources, there's now some uncertainty as to whether that will continue," he said.

Gold miners also fell more than 3 per cent as gold prices came off recent highs with the rise in the US dollar.

Oil and gas producers were also pummelled, with Woodside Petroleum and Santos down around 4 per cent.

One bright spot was explosives and fertiliser maker Incitec Pivot, which jumped as much as 12 per cent, its biggest gain since Nov 2008, after its first-half underlying profit beat expectations, despite warning that it faced tough markets.

Incitec was the market's top gainer, in stark contrast to its bigger rival Orica, which was the biggest loser on Monday after slashing its outlook for the 2016 financial year and cutting its dividend in half.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 per cent to 6,907.16, bolstered by the banks.

Air New Zealand was one of the top gainers, rising 3.3 per cent, helped by falling oil prices.

In the other direction, Orion Health Group was down 1.6 per cent. Sky Network Television fell 0.9 per cent as investors remained dour on its downbeat forecast.