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Australia shares gain for third session; metal firms shine

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[BENGALURU] Australia's share index closed at its highest in more than two months on Thursday, helped by stronger materials and energy stocks, though investors held off on making big bets ahead of a slew of production reports by major resource companies.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 14.9 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 5,850 for its third straight session of gains. It had advanced 0.4 per cent on Wednesday.

The metals and mining sector rose 0.7 per cent, bolstered mainly by diversified miner South32, which gained 3.6 per cent after its second-quarter coking coal output nearly doubled.

Metals stocks also gained from firmer commodity prices. London copper prices rose for a third session in a row on Thursday as China's move to inject liquidity into the financial system boosted expectations of higher demand in the world's top industrial metals consumer.

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Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group firmed 1.8 per cent while diversified miner and index heavyweight Rio Tinto, which will report its quarterly production on Friday, gained about 1 per cent.

Mining giant BHP Group is set to report second-quarter production next week, along with oil and gas players Oil Search and Santos. Resource stocks are the second largest sector on the benchmark.

Whitehaven Coal firmed more than 3.7 per cent after its second-quarter coal production rose 11 per cent. The stock was also the biggest boost to the energy index.

Woodside Petroleum pared earlier gains to finish 0.7 per cent higher after it reported a surge in quarterly revenue but flagged higher-than-expected investment costs for 2019.

Financials moved higher in tandem with their Wall Street peers as Bank of America Corp and Goldman Sachs Group Inc reported strong earnings overnight, boosting investor sentiment.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd finished the session 0.7 per cent up, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia Ltd advanced 0.3 per cent.

Australia's financial sub-index rose 0.4 per cent, scaling a near 1-1/2-month high, with wealth manager AMP Ltd putting on 2.3 per cent to be around the top per centage gainers among finance stocks.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose about 0.6 per cent, or 50.37 points, to 9,077.81, a more than three-month high.

Consumer stocks such as Synlait Milk and a2 Milk rose about 2.9 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.

REUTERS