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Australia shares hits near 6-month high, supported by financials

[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose to a near six-month high and were set for a ninth straight session of gains on Monday, as financial stocks rallied on record Wall Street closes in the previous session.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 5.61 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 5,912.6 at 0030 GMT, after climbing as much as 0.3 per cent to its highest since May 3. The benchmark rose 0.2 per cent on Friday.

US stocks hit record closing highs on Friday after the Senate approved a 2018 budget blueprint, lifting hopes that President Donald Trump's tax-cut plan may move forward.

"The leads from Wall Street are definitely contributing to today's strength (in the Australian market)," said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.

"Our market had been range-bound for almost 22 weeks ... we've finally broken higher and got some good momentum, and I think it's just a continuation of that momentum early this week, and banks continue to drive it," said Mr Conway.

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The financial index gained 0.4 per cent, also heading for a ninth consecutive session of gains.

Shares of the "Big Four" lenders rose in the range of 0.4 per cent to 0.5 per cent, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia recovering from an early drop to hit a near 10-week high.

Among material stocks, iron-ore miner Fortescue Metals Group rose as much as 2.2 per cent after Chinese iron ore futures jumped more than 5 per cent on Friday, boosted by a rally in steel prices.

Global miner Rio Tinto also eked out some gains, while BHP Billiton fell nearly 0.8 per cent.

"BHP has a large exposure to oil as well, so oil prices which did next to nothing on Friday may be weighing on the stock," said Mr Conway.

Telstra Corp rose as much as 1.7 per cent, its biggest intra-day percentage gain in a week.

Meanwhile, gold miners Newcrest Mining fell to its lowest in over two weeks, while Evolution Mining slipped 1.5 per cent, as optimism surrounding US tax reform boosted riskier assets and dragged gold prices.

New Zealand markets were closed for a holiday on account of Labour Day.


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