March 16, 2017 / 6:20 AM / 3 years ago

Australia shares inch up as miners rally; NZ rises

(Updates to close)

March 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended higher for a third straight session on Thursday as gains in commodity prices boosted mining and oil stocks such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 percent, or 11.8 points, to 5,785.8 at the close of trade.

BHP Billiton led the gains, surging 3.7 percent, its biggest percentage gain in more than two months.

Crude oil prices extended gains on Thursday from the previous session as U.S. stockpiles eased from record highs, while metals including iron ore and copper also rose, boosting sentiment.

Iron ore miners Rio Tinto Ltd and Fortescue Metals Group gained 2.3 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, the financial index ended 1.1 percent lower, dragged down by the “big four” banks which slid in the range of 0.3 percent to 2.4 percent.

The U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday for the second time in three months, but did not flag any plan to accelerate the pace of monetary tightening, a concern that had lingered among some market participants.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the ASX 200 by a 1.2-to-1 ratio.

Five companies on the S&P/ASX 200 index posted 52-week highs, while two fell to one-year lows.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 percent, or 20.69 points, to close at 7,151.99.

Statistics New Zealand said gross domestic product rose 0.4 percent in October-December from the previous three months.

Auckland International Airport was among the big gainers on the benchmark, closing 2.5 percent higher. (Reporting By Shashwat Pradhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)

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