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March 6 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended slightly higher on Monday, as gains in materials and financials outweighed losses from healthcare and utility stocks.
The S&P/ASX 200 index finished 0.29 percent, or 16.899 points, higher at 5,746.5
Meanwhile, global risk appetite took a hit on rising geopolitical tensions, as North Korea fired four ballistic missiles early in the day.
The metals and mining index ended up 1.4 percent after it rose as much as 1.7 percent during the day.
Large-cap iron ore miner BHP Billiton gained 1.6 percent and Fortescue Metals Group ended 3.03 percent higher.
Rio Tinto rose nearly 2 percent after it announced that it will cut output and jobs at the Boyne aluminium smelter in Australia, in addition to cuts announced in January.
Chris Weston, institutional dealer at IG Markets, said “there’s still a view that we want to take a fairly upbeat stance on the mining space. There is growth around the world, we’ve been seeing global economic data improving. Leading indicators are suggesting that trade volumes are going up pick up.”
Copper edged up Monday, supported by protracted disruptions at the world’s two biggest copper mines and a slip for the dollar, while iron ore futures in China fell more than 1 percent on Monday as inventories at Chinese ports surged to the highest in at least 13 years.
Australia’s “Big Four” banks gained between 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent.
The healthcare sector was dragged down as Ramsay Health Care lost 1.1 percent, while utility sector saw Origin Energy shedding 0.8 percent.
Education provider Navitas Ltd closed at its lowest in nearly 16 months as it downgraded the outlook for its migrant language teaching division. New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.25 percent or 17.87 points, to finish the session at 7,178.74.
The index was pulled up by A2 Milk company gaining 4.6 percent and Sky Network Television adding 2.8 percent.
The index’s biggest loser was Ryman Healthcare, shedding 3.2 percent (Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick; Editing by Richard Borsuk)