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Australia: Shares track up as Italy turmoil eases; NZ higher

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares enjoyed broad-based gains led largely by materials stocks as they tracked a global rally in equities as Italy's political turmoil eased.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 per cent or 25.8 points to 6010.5 at 0323 GMT. The benchmark lost 0.5 per cent on Wednesday but is set for a monthly gain.

"What's good for the goose should be good for the gander as a semblance of Italian political stability should reverse out some of yesterday's local (Asia) cash market losses," said Stephen Innes, Head of Trading APAC at Oanda.

Global markets were rattled earlier this week when Italy's two anti-establishment parties scrapped plans to form a coalition, stoking fears of a general election that could become a referendum on euro membership.

A degree of calm, however, returned, with the parties renewing efforts to form a coalition government rather than force Italy into a second election this year.

Australia's mining stocks charted a 1.7 per cent climb and contributed the majority of gains on the benchmark after commodity stocks rose on upbeat metal prices.

Global mining heavyweights Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton gained up to 1.2 per cent and 1.8 per cent, respectively.

Energy stocks also added to gains, having climbed as much as 2.6 per cent on an overnight surge in global oil prices.

Woodside Petroleum rose as much as 2.5 per cent, while Santos Ltd tacked up 3.4 per cent.

Santos said partners in the Gladstone liquefied natural gas (GLNG) plant will invest more than A$400 million (S$405 million) in the Arcadia gas project to help boost its gas supply.

Three of Australia's "Big Four" banks rose between 0.1 and 0.2 percent, while Commonwealth Bank Of Australia lost 0.6 per cent and was the biggest drag on the benchmark.

Real estate stocks registered most of the losses on the index.

Scentre Group was the second biggest drag on the benchmark having fallen as much as 1.4 per cent while Dexus and Goodman Group Pty fell by as much as 2 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively.

Australia's housing activity slowed in April with approvals to build new homes down more than expected while non-residential permits also slipped in an ominous sign for economic growth.

Software developer MYOB Group was the top loser on the benchmark, dropping 6.2 per cent to its lowest in more than two years after it scrapped its A$180 million (S$182.3 million) acquisition of Reckon Ltd's accounting practice software arm.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was 0.3 per cent or 23.63 points higher at 8,671.49 by 0328 GMT. The benchmark is set for its best month since August 2016.

Consumer staple and healthcare stocks led gainers on the index, with A2 Milk Company Ltd and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare up as much as 2.5 per cent and 1.2 per cent, respectively.

REUTERS

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