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Energy stocks boost Australian shares; NZ also rises

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[BENGALURU] Energy stocks helped Australia's benchmark share index reverse course to end higher on Monday as oil prices jumped after Saudi Arabia announced a supply cut.

Markets had faltered in early trade on worries about slowing global growth and as investors squared positions ahead of a slew of economic data later this week.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.3 per cent or 19.5 points at 5,941.3 points, a more-than-three-week high. The benchmark fell 0.1 per cent on Friday.

Energy stocks were among the top gainers, rising nearly 2 per cent at one point before paring some gains.

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Top gainers were Beach Energy Ltd, Whitehaven Coal Ltd and Oil Search Ltd, which rose between 1.8 per cent and 3.3 per cent.

Oil prices rose by about 1 per cent after top exporter Saudi Arabia announced plans to reduce oil supply by 0.5 million barrels per day in December.

"We are seeing a stabilisation and a bit of rebalancing ahead of a very busy week for data," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

This week will see major data releases from the United States, China, Japan and Germany among other larger economies.

"It is no surprise that we are seeing a fairly cautious approach to trading and it does look like we seeing a short term trend in equity markets, with the strength that we are seeing in Australia and the region today," McCarthy said.

Metals and mining stocks, closed 0.2 per cent higher. Shares of Rio Tinto rose 1.7 per cent, after the global miner announced the completion of its A$2.87 billion ($2.07 billion) buy-back.

Buoyant benchmark London copper prices and aluminium prices also cheered the miners.

Aussie healthcare stocks also climbed over 1 per cent for a fourth straight session.

Shares of hospital operator Healthscope Ltd gained 14.4 per cent to close at an over 5-month high, after receiving a sweetened $3.3 billion takeover proposal from Brookfield Capital Partners.

Meanwhile, financial stocks fell 0.3 per cent, with sector heavyweight Australia and New Zealand Banking Group losing 3 per cent, as it traded ex-dividend.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained 0.3 per cent to finish at 8,956.85, boosted by consumer and healthcare stocks.

Subscription television provider Sky Network Television Ltd and retirement home operator Metlifecare Ltd closed 3.8 per cent and 2.2 per cent higher, respectively.

REUTERS