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Australia shares edge higher on boost from miners, NZ up


[SYDNEY] Australian shares pulled higher on Monday morning as upbeat commodity and metal prices boosted the materials sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 18.98 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 5,721.8 at 0205 GMT. The benchmark fell 1.4 per cent on Friday.

The material sector, accounting for over half the gains in the benchmark, was led higher by global miner BHP Billiton which rose 2.2 per cent to its highest since February.

The metal and mining stocks gained as much as 2.1 per cent.

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Growth in China's manufacturing sector slowed marginally in July, an official survey showed, although the underlying picture was one of stable growth in the world's no 2 economy - a major market for Australia.

Oil and gas majors Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search rose 0.9 per cent and 1.1 per cent, respectively, both reversing two days of losses on the back of an uptick in global oil prices.

Oil prices rose as a dip in US production tightened the market while iron ore prices followed suit, jumping 7.3 per cent to its highest in three months.

The mining and energy sectors are being driven by a positive performance in the underlying commodities, said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

"People are switching out of other things to get into material stocks so there may be some sort of selling in financials to make way for the portfolios in mining stocks," Mr Spooner said.

The laggards were led by Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Corp, down 0.1 per cent and 0.2 per cent, respectively.

Infrastructure companies Lendlease Group and Mirvac Group edged lower after an industry survey showed sales of new homes in Australia fell to its lowest since 2013.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 29.59 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 7,669.1 at 0206 GMT.

Industrial stocks provided the biggest boost to the index with Auckland International Airport among the top per centage gainers, rising over 1.8 per cent.