February 27, 2018 / 6:18 AM / 21 days ago

Australia, New Zealand shares end higher for 5th straight session

* Markets subdued ahead of Fed Chair’s congressional testimony

* New Zealand closes at more-than 3-week high (Updates to close)

Feb 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed at their highest in more than three weeks on Tuesday following a strong lead from Wall Street and as resources stocks ticked up on a slight rise in metal prices.

However, the index eased off an intraday high as caution crept in ahead of U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s highly anticipated congressional testimony later in the day.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 percent to 6,056.90 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.7 percent on Monday.

U.S. stocks closed higher on Monday as a decline in Treasury yields resulted in a shift towards equities.

Australian financials led gains, with the sector index closing about 0.4 percent higher, driven by the “Big Four” banks, with Australia And New Zealand Banking Group among the biggest movers.

Materials stocks also pushed the benchmark higher, with miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto contributing a combined 5 point gain to the index.

Rio Tinto rose after it received a $345 million offer from Norway’s Hydro for an aluminium plant in Iceland.

Miners also took cues from rising metal prices, as London copper prices inched up on Tuesday, lifted in light trade by a weaker dollar.

Fuel supplier Caltex Australia ended 4 percent higher after its first-half net profit rose.

Telecommunication stocks weighed slightly on the index, with Telstra Corp ending about 0.9 percent lower.

New Zealand shares closed higher for their fifth straight session, aided by telecoms and materials.

The S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 percent or 19.85 points to finish the session at 8,360.38.

Spark New Zealand, one of the country’s largest telecom operators, ended about 2 percent higher, while building materials maker Fletcher Building ended up by 1.5 percent. (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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