Australia shares brace for financial inquiry report; NZ up
* Materials stocks dominate gains in Australia
* Energy stocks rise on higher oil prices
* Financials nervy before inquiry report
By Aditya Soni
Sept 28 (Reuters) - Australia's benchmark share index rose
to a more than three-week high on Friday, with materials leading
broad-based gains, but financial stocks were on edge ahead of
the release of a high-profile inquiry's interim report later in
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 percent or 34.70
points to 6,215.90 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.2 percent
on Thursday but was on track to post a gain of 0.4 percent for
"The markets are having the usual optimism into the close of
a quarter," said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio
strategist with Blue Ocean Equities.
James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking
said that window dressing was supporting the gains and the
biggest stocks are all going to finish marginally higher as ASX
has had a good quarter given the volatility that’s coming from
Materials accounted for nearly half of the gains on the
benchmark, with the metals and mining index rising 1.1
percent to a near two-month high.
Global miner BHP rose 1.3 percent to its highest
since August 1, while its rival Rio Tinto Ltd firmed
Freeport McMoRan Inc and Rio Tinto have struck a
binding accord to sell a majority stake in the world's
second-biggest copper mine, Grasberg, to Indonesia's state
mining company, Inalum for $3.85 billion.
Energy stocks rose as much as 1.4 percent supported
by a rise in oil prices.
Oil edged higher on Thursday, driven by the prospect of a
shortfall in global supply once U.S. sanctions against major
crude exporter Iran come into force in five weeks.
Benchmark heavyweight Woodside Petroleum Ltd firmed
0.8 percent to a near four-year high, while Origin Energy Ltd
climbed 1.7 percent to its highest since Sept. 17.
Banks and insurers were under the cosh ahead of the release
of the inquiry's interim report. The Royal Commission has
already revealed widespread wrongdoing in Australian financial
services, making it the worst-performing ASX sector this year.
The financial index was 0.1 percent lower, on track
for fifth straight day of losses.
No.2 lender Westpac Banking Corp dropped 1 percent
to a more than three-month low and was the biggest drag on the
benchmark, while National Australia Bank Ltd ticked
down 0.2 percent.
Westpac said on Thursday after the market close that its
annual cash earnings will fall by about A$235 million ($169.41
million) on account of provisions for customer refunds and
Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50
index ticked up 0.3 percent or 23.87 points to 9,310.27.
Health care stocks dominated the gains, with Fisher & Paykel
Healthcare Corporation Ltd rising 1.7 percent.
($1 = 1.3872 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by
Shanima A; Editing by Kim Coghill)
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