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Australia: Shares gain on Wall Street cue; NZ shut


[LONDON] Australian shares climbed on Monday, taking their cue from stronger US markets after President Donald Trump signed executive orders to review banking rules implemented after the 2008 global financial crisis.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 11.8 points or 0.21 per cent to 5,633.4 by 0100 GMT.

Though Mr Trump's order was short on specifics, the US financial market embraced his signal that looser banking regulation was coming, pushing bank stocks higher. "It's basically a bit of wind-back of the tightening of (banking) regulations since the Dodd Frank act. It doesn't necessarily sound prudent, but it's obviously positive for bank profitability, particularly in the US," said Bill Keenan, general manager equities and researcher at Lonsec.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was signed by former President Barack Obama in 2010 as a response to the financial crisis.

The Act created new regulatory bodies and directed already-existing agencies to write hundreds of regulations aimed at creating stability in the financial markets. "There's an expectation that some of the global banking regulations might also lighten because they don't want to put global banks at disadvantage to the US banks," he added.

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In Australia, financials made up three-fourths of the gains on the index, with all the 'Big Four' banks up.

National Australia Bank was the biggest gainer among the four, after it reported first-quarter cash earnings of A$1.6 billion, in line with expectations. Its cash profit fell 1 per cent.

Gold stocks rose over 2 per cent, after gold prices crawled higher on Monday on a weaker dollar.

Gold miner St Barbara rose 6.2 per cent to its highest since Nov 10, while Evolution Mining gained 3 per cent.

Material stocks were the biggest drag on the index, with the metals index slipping 0.8 per cent.

BHP Billiton led sector losses after workers at its Escondida mine prepared to re-enter dialogue with the company on Friday.

Unionised workers at the world's largest copper mine last week rejected the last company wage offer and voted for a work stoppage.

However, the union said late on Thursday night that the company had asked for mediation by Chile's Labor Directorate, which effectively extends negotiations and pushes back the start of a possible strike.

BHP Billiton fell as much as 2.02 per cent for a third consecutive session, to its lowest in a month.

Virgin Australia Holdings slipped 4.9 per cent after its budget unit, Tigerair Australia, said it would quit flying to Bali permanently following a spat with Indonesian authorities.

New Zealand markets are closed for a public holiday. On Friday, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged up 0.6 per cent to 7,094.38.


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