Australia shares see best day in 2 months; energy stocks power gains

(Updates to close)

Aug 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares gained the most in two months on Monday, powered by energy firms and heavyweight financial stocks, as expectations of more stimulus in major economies helped ease global recession worries.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 1% higher for its best session since June 19 at 6,467.40 points.

All three major U.S. stock averages had ended higher on Friday as an ebbing bond rally and news of potential German economic stimulus brought buyers back to the equities market.

Global stocks were shaky for most of last week as Sino-U.S. trade tensions and fears of a recession sparked by signals from the U.S. bond market kept investors on the edge.

But sentiment picked up a bit on Monday after U.S. President Donald Trump said he had discussed the impact of Washington's tariffs on Chinese goods with Apple chief Tim Cook, sending U.S. stock futures higher. Trump said Cook "made a good case" that tariffs could hurt Apple and not some of its competitors.

The energy sub-index closed 2.2% higher as crude prices rose following a weekend attack on a Saudi oil facility by Yemeni separatists.

Beach Energy Ltd led the sector's gains, putting on nearly 11%, after the oil and gas explorer reported a whopping 86% rise in its full-year underlying net profit after tax.

The financials subindex climbed as much as 1.1%, with all the "Big Four" lenders finishing the session higher in the range between 0.7% and 1.6%.

The No. 2 lender Westpac Banking Corp finished 0.8% higher, after it reported a rise in the number of people missing mortgage payments amid a sluggish economy and a soft housing market.

Construction firm Lendlease Group ended the session about 11% higher after it said it has attracted "a good level" of interest from prospective buyers for its underperforming engineering and services business, which dragged down full-year profit.

Meanwhile, the metals and mining stock index retreated 0.7% as a drop in prices of safe haven gold led to heavy declines among the miners of the yellow metal.

Major gold firms Newcrest Mining Ltd and Evolution Mining Ltd lost about 3% each.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.4% higher at 10,702.48.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Co Ltd was the top percentage gainer, finishing more than 3.4% higher ahead of his full year results on Wednesday. (Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

2019-08-19 08:54:19

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