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Australian shares edge up on boost from miners, energy firms; NZ steady

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ticked up on Friday as rising commodity prices boosted miners, while attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman saw energy stocks gain on supply concerns.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.2per cent or 11.6 points to 6,554.0, and is up 1.7 per cent for the week.

Iron ore prices surged to a record high buoyed by expectations of tight supply and restrained demand amid prospects of further policy support by top metals consumer China - Australia's biggest trading partner.

Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He on Thursday urged the country's regulators to step up support for the economy and keep ample liquidity in the market, suggesting more policies would be unveiled soon.

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Mining stocks climbed 2.7 per cent to a more than seven-and-a-half year closing high. The index clocked a 6.2 per cent weekly gain, its best week since early February.

Global miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto advanced 1.9 per cent and 3.4 per cent, respectively, while Fortescue Metals Group gained 5.4 per cent.

Gold stocks ended up 3.9 per cent to a more than seven-year peak as prices of the safe-haven metal surged due to trade and political turmoil, along with hopes for US interest rate cuts in coming months.

Newcrest Mining rallied 3 per cent and Northern Star Resources surged 5.6per cent.

Oil prices extended sharp gains for a second day after an attack on two oil tankers near Iran and the Straight of Hormuz fanned concerns of reduced crude supply.

Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search Ltd advanced 1.9 per cent and 1.5per cent, respectively, lifting the energy index .

Financials went south, declining 0.8 per cent as investors priced in further rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of Australia following soft domestic economic data.

If the central bank cuts interest rates lenders would be required to pass on the cuts to customers, which could in turn hurt the banks' profit margins.

The "Big Four" banks lost between 0.7per cent and 1per cent, with top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia down 0.8 per cent.

Wealth managers also weighed on the index after the country's banking regulator imposed stricter licensing conditions on AMP Ltd's pension fund unit over concerns regarding its compliance with superannuation laws.

AMP fell 5.8 per cent and was among the worst performers on the Australian benchmark.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched up 0.1 per cent percent or 11.56 points to 10,235.37.

Dairy products maker a2 Milk Company jumped 1per cent and Auckland International Airport rose 0.2 per cent.

REUTERS