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Australia: Shares hit near five-week high, New Zealand firmer


[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose sharply on Monday, tracking a broader global rally after strong U.S. jobs data and dovish remarks from the Federal Reserve, while miners and energy stocks led gains on higher oil and commodities prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 1.5 per cent, or 86.5 points, to a near five-week high of 5,705.9 by 0043 GMT. The benchmark dipped 0.3 per cent on Friday.

Data on Friday showed US employers hired the most workers in 10 months in December. That, coupled with Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's pledge that the central bank would be "patient" with its monetary policy, soothed markets that had been roiled by concerns about a global slowdown.

Investors are also optimistic about trade talks between China and the United States later in the day. The ongoing trade-war has hit risk sentiment, slowed global growth and even prompted a rare revenue warning from Apple.

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Damian Rooney, a director of equity sales at Argonaut, said the flurry of positive catalysts had invigorated risk sentiment.

The materials sector led the local rally on Monday, with the metals and mining index jumping 2.3 per cent to a near two-month high.

Local mining stocks stand to gain significantly from a possible resolution to the Sino-US trade spat as the world's second largest economy is a major buyer of Australia's commodities exports.

Higher base metals and iron ore prices also boosted buying interest in miners.

BHP Group Ltd, Australia's biggest listed firm, gained 3.1 per cent, while its rival Rio Tinto Ltd rose as much 2.7 per cent, its biggest intraday percentage gain since Dec 3.

Boosted by a more than one percent jump in oil prices, energy stocks also lent support to the benchmark's rally.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd climbed 1.8 per cent to a one-and-a-half month high, while Santos Ltd soared 4.2 per cent to its highest since Dec 12.

However, the jump in risk appetite took some of the recent shine off safe-haven gold, putting pressure on miners of the precious metal, which have rallied since the start of the year on heightened market jitters.

Australian gold stocks index dropped as much as 2.4 per cent with Northern Star Resources shedding 3.1 per cent.

Elsewhere, Healius Ltd slumped as much 3.6 per cent and was the top percentage loser after it rejected a A$1.7 billion (S$1.65 billion) buyout approach from Chinese construction company Jangho Group, saying it undervalued Australia's No. 2 medical centre operator.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index advanced 0.5 per cent or 43.4 points to 8,787.16.

Consumer stocks were among the top gainers, with A2 Milk Company Ltd rising 1.9 per cent, while Synlait Milk Ltd strengthened 2.1 per cent.