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Australian shares higher as investors hunt for yield, NZ extends gains

[BENGALURU] Australian shares were higher on Monday, as investors looked to buy into sectors with better yield prospects, looking past the global unrest caused by North Korea's nuclear test last week as well as allegations of a breach in money laundering rules against Commonwealth Bank of Australia .

Commonwealth Bank, which has been under the scrutiny of regulators after it was accused of "serious and systemic" breaches of money-laundering rules, fell as much as 0.4 per cent.

North Korean tensions eased slightly as the country's leader Kim Jong Un decided to hold a celebration over the weekend rather than launch another missile.

The country did, however, warn the United States that it would pay a "due price" for spearheading a UN Security Council resolution against its latest nuclear test.

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The S&P/ASX 200 index, which fell nearly one per cent last week and has incurred losses in the past four months, gained 0.6 per cent or 36.483 points to 5,709.1 by 0231 GMT on Monday.

"We've been underperforming for a while now, so there is a bit of catch-up," said Damien Hennessy of Heuristic Investment Systems.

"There has been a lot of negativity around banks, and I guess from time to time, there is some provided opportunities for investors to have another look at what would be considered fairly substantial yield in the market. Financials are yield attractive."

Providing a boost to the sector top investment bank Macquarie Group said it expects its first-half net profit to be higher than the same period last year as it recognises improved performance fees in the six-month period.

Meanwhile, commodity prices fell dragging down commodity stocks that capped gains on the index.

Chinese iron ore futures fell to their weakest level in almost a month on Monday, while nickel led an across-the-board decline in Chinese base metals futures.

Mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto fell as much as 2.8 per cent and 2.6 per cent, respectively.

Gold producer Newcrest Mining slipped as much as 3.2 per cent after gold prices dropped early on Monday after hitting its highest level in over a year in the previous session.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.07 per cent or 5.63 points to 7,857.16.

Consumer staple and health care stocks led the gains on the index with A2 Milk Company and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation both hitting an all-time high.

The medical device maker's stock is on track to post its ninth consecutive day of gains.

REUTERS