* Australia shares rise, snapping two sessions of losses
* Banks lead as most sectors tread higher
* Housing sector posts loss as stocks trade ex-dividend (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford
SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, June 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares added 0.7 percent on Thursday after Wall Street rose overnight and metal prices ticked higher, although continuing unrest in Iraq and some housing stocks trading ex-dividend kept some investors wary.
The financial sector, an index heavyweight, tracked higher with the ‘Big Four’ banks all gaining ground. Among them, Westpac Banking Corporation jumped 1.5 percent, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia added 0.7 percent.
The S&P/ASX 200 index tacked on 39.2 points to 5,441.2 by 0205 GMT. The benchmark slipped 0.6 percent on Wednesday, easing for a second day in a row.
The benchmark has fallen 0.9 percent so far in June, with investor sentiment soured by a rout in iron ore prices, geopolitical tension in Ukraine and unrest in Iraq.
“The market’s just been range-bound for the last four months, between about 5,300 and 5,500”, said Ben Clark, a portfolio manager at TMS Capital.
“I think the market looks a bit stretched valuation-wise once it gets to that 5,500 level.”
Stocks in the housing sector lost ground, dampening the broader market as they traded ex-dividend. GPT Group was down 1.5 percent, while Mirvac Group slipped 0.8 percent and Stockland Corporation Ltd tumbled 2.1 percent to 3-1/2 week lows of A$3.92. Stockland said it has established a new strategic partnership with Opal Aged Care, including selling four aged-care facilities to Opal for A$25.6 million.
AGL Energy Ltd jumped 2.5 percent after being cleared to buy state-owned Macquarie Generation by a tribunal that overturned the competition regulator’s decision to block the deal.
“I think there’ll be good synergies for it for AGL,” said Clark, adding that the price AGL paid is viewed as pretty good.
Elsewhere, Monash IVF Group debuted on the ASX at A$1.96 against an issue price of A$1.85. The shares were trading up 4.9 percent at A$1.94 by 0209 GMT.
Tabcorp Holdings Ltd soared 6.8 percent to A$3.62, its highest point since mid-May after receiving notice that the Supreme Court of Victoria will deliver a judgment on the company’s claim for payment of A$686.8 million on June 26.
The New Zealand share market headed higher for the first time in a week with the benchmark NZX-50 index up 17.12 points or 0.3 percent to 5,121.66.
Port of Tauranga Ltd, the country’s biggest export port, hit a 13-month high of NZ$15.05 after announcing a deal with logistics firm Kotahi Ltd and shipping line Maersk to increase volumes and bring in bigger container vessels.
The port company, which last traded up 4.4 percent at NZ$15.00, will issue two million shares to Kotahi, and has also sold it a 49.9 percent stake in its container operations in the southern port of Timaru.
Clothing retailer Hallenstein Glasson gained 3.4 percent to NZ$3.03 after it said on Wednesday that sales were slightly up despite the warm winter weather that has hurt competitors.
The market was underpinned by modest gains for most of the bourse’s top stocks, including software developer Xero Ltd which has seen volatile trading over the past week. (Editing by Eric Meijer)