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Miners lead Australian shares higher on China trade optimism; NZ rises

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended higher on Monday, with resource stocks in favour after US President Donald Trump announced a delay in planned tariff hikes on Chinese goods due to progress made in trade negotiations, although weaker utilities capped gains.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 per cent to 6,186.30 at the close of trade. The benchmark firmed 0.5 per cent on Friday.

Mining stocks ended about 0.8 per cent higher after Mr Trump confirmed he would hold fire on tariffs on Chinese imports. China is the biggest buyer of Australia's resource exports, and the de-escalation in trade tensions helped Australia's miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto, close about 0.9 per cent and 0.5 per cent higher, respectively.

Stronger iron ore prices also helped sentiment towards the mining companies.

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Fortescue Metals Group, the world's fourth-largest iron ore producer, closed about 2 per cent up.

Meanwhile, software developer Appen Ltd was the biggest gainer on the ASX 200 and posted a record close after its annual net profit nearly tripled.

Pallets maker Brambles also lent support after it announced the sale of its plastics containers business and earmarked the proceeds for a share buyback.

On the downside, energy retailers AGL Energy and Origin Energy closed about 0.6 per cent and 2.9 per cent lower respectively after the Australian government's proposal to curb energy costs for consumers.

Origin Energy flagged a A$44 million (S$42.5 million) hit to annual pre-tax earnings from the draft, while AGL was yet to comment on the matter.

New Zealand shares ended higher on strength in utilities and consumer staples. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 per cent or 35.42 points to finish the session at 9,344.63.

Energy retailer Meridian Energy ended 2.3 per cent higher, while Synlait Milk gained 4.1 per cent.

New Zealand retail sales jumped for the fourth quarter, official data showed on Monday, tempering concerns of softer growth in the country's economy.

REUTERS