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Australia: Shares end the day higher


[SYDNEY] Miners took the lead on Monday, propelling Australian shares higher as upbeat commodity and metal prices drew investors to materials stocks.

The SS&P/ASX 200 index rose 17.78 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 5,720.6 at the end of trade, slightly down in July and posting its third consecutive straight monthly fall.

The materials sector's rise, which accounted for more than half the gains in the benchmark, was spearheaded by global miner BHP Billiton, which rose 2.1 per cent to levels unseen since February.

The metal and mining stocks sub-index ended 2 per cent higher.

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Investors are "continuing to respond to what they are seeing as an improved outlook for base metals in coming month," said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Oil prices gained after a slip in US inventories, while iron ore prices soared about 8 per cent to their highest in three months.

Oil and gas majors Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search gained 1.1 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively, both reversing two days of losses.

Financial stocks rose marginally with Commonwealth Bank of Australia leading gains.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 54.48 points, or 0.7 per cent, to finish the session at 7,693.99. It was up 1.1 per cent for July, marking its seventh straight monthly gain.

Industrial stocks drove the index, with Auckland International Airport among the top percentage gainers, closing 2.4 per cent higher.