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Australia shares helped higher by resources, financials; NZ also up

[BENGALURU] Australia shares rose on Tuesday as higher metal prices spurred buying of resources shares such as aluminium and iron ore producers.

Sentiment was also buoyed by comments by President Xi Jinping who promised to open China's markets further to foreign companies and investors, helping to soothe investor jitters over an escalating US-China trade row.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.8 per cent, or 46 points, to 5,854.7 by 0255 GMT. It rose 0.4 per cent on Monday.

Materials stocks gained after Shanghai aluminium prices touched a five week-high after US sanctions were imposed on Russian aluminium major United Company Rusal.

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The most-traded May aluminium contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange climbed as much as 1.5 per cent while the most-traded iron ore for September delivery on the Dalian Commodity Exchange was up 2.4 per cent.

"There are issues with aluminium markets, specifically with the Russian supply side and that is a short term spike, but overall, I think that will have some effect," said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist, Blue Ocean Equities.

Global miner BHP was up as much as one per cent while Rio Tinto was trading 2.3 per cent higher.

Bauxite miner and refiner Alumina Ltd climbed as much as 4.7 per cent to its highest in seven years. Australia's mining index rose 1.8 per cent, set to end higher for a third consecutive session.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia was the biggest contributor to the benchmark's performance, rising as much as 1.1 per cent. The lender's peers also rose, with the financial index's gain of one per cent making the sector the biggest contributor to the wider market's performance.

Health care stocks were the only losers on Tuesday, after being among the top contributors to the market's gain the previous day.

"The health care stocks were overvalued, on the concept that currency will fall, but everyone has got into that substantially crowded trading, so that's unwinding," added Blue Ocean Equities' Mr Somasundaram.

On Monday, Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG agreed to buy US gene therapy company AveXis Inc for US$8.7 billion, leading to Australian health care stocks rallying.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent, or 16 points, to 8,470.13, helped by health care and industrials.

Ryman Healthcare Ltd gained as much as 2.8 per cent while telecommunication services firm Spark New Zealand Ltd was up to 0.6 per cent higher.

REUTERS