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Australia: Shares lifted as industrials rally, NZ subdued

[SYDNEY] Australian shares climbed to a three-week peak on Monday, lifted by improving risk appetite and upbeat earnings at home, while New Zealand stocks took a breather after last week's 3.5 per cent rally.

The S&P/ASX 200 index powered up 0.6 per cent or 29.804 points to 4,983.2 by 02:49 GMT. The benchmark rallied nearly 4 per cent last week, having erased the previous week's losses. Still, the index is 2.1 per cent down this year, having been rocked by worries about global growth and tumbling oil prices.

Gains were across the board with industrial stocks the star performers. Logistics provider Brambles surged 9 per cent to touch its highest in nine years after reporting a net profit gain of nearly A$300 million.

The share price of Bluescope Steel, Australia's biggest steelmaker, scaled its highest in more than a year after first-half net profit doubled.

Miners also gained after a rise in metal prices and iron ore, Australia's top export earner.

Fortescue Metals Group jumped 8 per cent to a three-month peak, while Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton gained between 2 and 3 per cent.

The better mood spread to financials which have suffered from a general risk aversion in recent weeks.

Macquarie Group led the pack with a jump of 1.5 per cent, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac rose around 0.5 per cent.

Strong earnings lifted health insurer NIB Holdings 7.3 per cent on an encouraging outlook.

But the market gave some energy stocks a wide berth on concerns about a general oversupply of oil.

Santos and Woodside Petroleum dropped around 1.5 per cent each.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.28 per cent or 17.18 points to 6,124.53 as the index stabilised after five consecutive sessions of gains the previous week.

Freightways led losses, falling 3.2 per cent, after the delivery company said in its half-year earnings results that it was cautious in its outlook given global market volatility.

Auckland Airport lost 1.42 per cent as investors took profits after the company's shares rose as much as 3.9 per cent and hit an all-time high on Friday. The company had reported half-year net profit rising 25 per cent on a tourism boom.

Health software company Orion Health Group edged down 0.73 per cent while Nuplex Industries lost 0.79 per cent.

Steel products supplier Steel & Tube Holdings was the biggest gainer, rising 2.7 per cent after the company posted a half-yearly jump in net profit after tax of 47 per cent on Friday.