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Australia shares higher on metal prices; NZ falls

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Tuesday, lifted by materials, as a weaker US dollar boosted copper and gold prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.4 per cent, 23.228 points, higher at 5,634.2 by 0057 GMT.

The US dollar fell on Monday as investors spooked by Donald Trump's protectionist views shifted away from riskier assets, resulting in lower bond yields and higher gold and copper prices.

The ASX mining index comprising of major copper and gold miners, gained 1.5 per cent in early trade, with Bluescope Steel and BHP Billiton contributing the most to the broader index.

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Gains in base metal prices across European markets is lending support to miners including BHP, said Tony Farnham, an economist with Patersons Securities, adding that BHP is reflecting the rally it had in US last night.

BHP Billiton added 0.8 per cent, tracking a one per cent gain in its US ADRs, while Bluescope Steel rose as much as 8.5 per cent to a six-year high, after it raised its first-half earnings forecast by about 18 per cent.

Following the lead, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group each added over 1.3 per cent.

The healthcare sector, which makes up more than six per cent of the broader index, also saw gains, with Resmed Inc's Sydney-listed shares rising 7.6 per cent to their highest in four months.

The San Diego, California-based company's US shares rose 8.5 per cent at US$69 after hours, after it reported better-than-expected second-quarter adjusted profit and revenue.

Heavyweight CSL Ltd rose half a per cent, its third session of gains in last four. The company upgraded its forecast for FY17 last week.

Financials stocks saw some early selling before reversing their direction towards positive territory.

"People saw a run-up in financials and now they are asking what have we got to justify buying them even more. And that is the challenge," Mr Farnham said.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank overcame early losses to rise over 0.6 per cent each.

Fund manager Challenger Ltd and investment bank Macquarie Group also provided support, rising as much as 1.4 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2 per cent, or 20.27 points, to 7,047.58.

Losses were led by materials and industrial stocks, with Fletcher Building Ltd falling 1.4 per cent while Auckland International Airport down 1.2 per cent.

Telcos saw some losses, with Spark New Zealand falling about half a per cent.