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Australia: Shares rise on the back of material, energy stocks; New Zealand slips

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[BENGALURU] Energy and material stocks buoyed the Australian benchmark index in thin trade on Friday after two sessions of heavy selling, while the outcome of the Westpac board meeting and a major money laundering scandal weighed on sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.5 per cent, or 35.6 points, to 5,708.50 by 0057 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.7 per cent on Thursday.

"At one stage yesterday the market was down close to 3%," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, referring to the loss over the last two sessions. "Today's bounce back looks like a recapturing of ground."

Material stocks gained 1 per cent, supported by the iron ore miners after overnight prices of the commodity ticked higher.

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The country's top miners, BHP Group and Rio Tinto, rose over 1 per cent, while iron ore giant Fortescue Metals Group rose 3.2 per cent.

Energy stocks rose as much as 1.8 per cent and recorded their best session in two weeks, underpinned by a two-day rally in oil prices on longer Opec supply cuts and optimism on the trade front.

Shares of Beach Energy rose 1.5 per cent, recovering a fraction of the near 4 per cent they lost during the past two sessions.

Woodside Petroleum also logged a 1.3 per cent gain.

Meanwhile, concerns over the financial sector continued in the wake of allegations that Westpac breached anti-money laundering laws. The prospect of the country's second-largest lender announcing major executive changes at its board meeting later in the day also weighed on financial stocks.

Shares of Westpac Banking Corp slid 1.4 per cent after Investment bank Goldman Sachs cut its target price amid the accusations.

National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group shed 0.5 per cent each.

Gold stocks also edged lower, weighed mostly by heavy declines in shares of OceanaGold Corp which fell as much as 11 per cent to their lowest level in 46 months.

Separately, following the takeover bid by Australian nickel miner Independence Group for its smaller peer Panoramic Resources, Independence Group said it would conduct due diligence on Panoramic and its flagship Savannah nickel project.

Shares of Independence Group and Panoramic rose 1.9 per cent and 9.6 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell marginally to 10,951.94.

NZ-listed shares of Westpac Baking Corp dropped 1.4 per cent while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare dipped 1.5 per cent.

REUTERS