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Australia shares rise as Syria taken in stride; NZ down


[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Monday in line with broader markets on relief that the fallout from US-led strikes on Syria over the weekend appeared limited, with miners BHP Billiton and South32 leading the gains.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.4 per cent or 22.4 points to 5,851.5 by 0250 GMT, after rising 0.7 per cent earlier to touch an over three-week high. The benchmark rose 0.2 per cent on Friday.

The United States, France and Britain launched missiles targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Douma earlier in April.

"The markets are taking the surgical strike at the heart of Syria's chemical weapon program in stride as traders had priced in this outcome with a high degree of probability," Stephen Innes, head of trading in Asia-Pacific for OANDA in Singapore, said in a note.

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BHP climbed as much as 2.2 per cent to a near seven-week high, while South32 jumped 5.5 per cent to its best since mid-Feb on strong aluminium prices.

Aluminium hit a six-year high on Friday, after the United States imposed sanctions on Russia's UC Rusal, the world's second-biggest producer.

Alumina Ltd rose 3.7 per cent to a seven-year high.

Financial stocks also offered support, with Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank up one per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

The energy index climbed 1.7 per cent to its highest since early February, with Origin Energy jumping 3.7 per cent and Woodside Petroleum up 1.4 per cent.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2 per cent or 19.61 points to 8,395.16 by 0250 GMT.

Healthcare stocks led the losses, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation and Ryman Healthcare down between 1.3 per cent and 2.2 per cent.

Natural health products maker Comvita Ltd lost 3.2 per cent after it slashed its full-year profit forecast.

Dairy stock a2 Milk Company was up 2.3 per cent after it announced plans to expand into South Korea.