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Australia: Shares gain after strong US jobs rally; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares advanced on Monday led by a Wall Street rally after solid US jobs data, while commodity stocks cheered better-than-expected import data from China, the biggest buyer of the country's resource exports.

The S&P/ASX 200 index extended gains for a third straight session, closing 0.3 per cent, or 23 points, higher at 6,730.

US equities jumped on Friday after data showing strong jobs growth in the world's largest economy eased fears of a slowdown.

While weak Chinese November export data released on the weekend tempered some of the momentum for global equities on Monday, an unexpected rise in imports pointed to firming domestic demand.

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Domestic producers of iron ore, the nation's biggest export, gained the most on Australia's mining index, which itself rose 1.3 per cent.

Top iron ore miners BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group added between 1.7 per cent and 3.4 per cent.

A jump in iron ore futures in China also added to strength amid mining stocks.

Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut, said the recent rally in Australian stocks may not be sustained given the caution around US-Sino trade talks.

Meanwhile, Lynas Corp added 2.4 per cent after it picked outback town Kalgoorlie as the site for a new initial ore processing plant, which could help the rare earths miner sooth Malaysian government concerns about radioactive waste.

Energy units also marked sharp gains, with oil and gas producers Santos Ltd and Woodside Petroleum climbing 1.7 per cent and 1.9 per cent higher, respectively.

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.

Elsewhere, administrative services provider McMillan Shakespeare plunged 7.5 per cent and was the worst performer on the ASX benchmark after it flagged tougher market conditions.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index declined 0.4 per cent to 11,229.59.

Dairy giant a2 Milk Company Ltd dropped 3.6 per cent after it said chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka had unexpectedly stepped down from the role she took in July 2018.

REUTERS