January 7, 2019 / 5:45 AM / 3 months ago

Australia shares end higher amid global relief rally; NZ up

* Financials at over 4-week high

* Metals & mining index ends at highest since Oct 16, 2018

* Energy stocks also at highest close in over 3-weeks (Updates to close)

Jan 7 (Reuters) - Australian shares climbed to a one-month high on Monday, tracking a global relief rally buoyed by strong U.S. jobs data and soothing comments from the U.S. central bank chief, while mining and energy stocks gained traction on higher commodity and oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 1.14 percent, 63.8 points, to close at 5,683.20. The benchmark shed 0.3 percent on Friday.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Friday said he was aware of risks and would be patient and flexible in policy decisions this year, offering relief to jittery markets which were hoping for a dovish outlook.

Fears of a sharp slowdown in growth were also soothed by data showing U.S. employers hired the most workers in 10 months in December while boosting wages.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s also helped sentiment by commenting that talks to de-escalate atrade war with China were going well.

The metals and mining index jumped 2.3 percent to its highest close since Oct. 16 as iron-ore futures rose after China’s central bank eased lending policy.

The world’s biggest listed miner BHP Group rose 3.3 percent while rival Rio Tinto Ltd firmed 2.7 percent, boosting the benchmark.

Financial stocks tacked on about 1.1 percent to hit an over 4-week high, with the “Big Four” lenders gaining between 0.8 percent and 1.4 percent. AMP Ltd was among top percentage gainers on the sub-index, firming 4.1 percent.

The country’s energy index jumped 2.4 percent to its highest in more than 3-weeks, with sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum Ltd climbing 1.7 percent and Origin Energy up 1.4 percent.

Energy companies gained after oil prices rose by more than 1 percent, boosted by hopes of progress in Sino-U.S. trade talks and supply cuts by major producers.

Meanwhile, the gold sub-index slipped after overnight losses in gold prices amid improving risk appetite, with miner Northern Star Resources Ltd among top percentage losers, off 3.2 percent.

The healthcare sub-index also fell, with Healius Ltd losing most after rejecting a buyout approach from a Chinese construction company.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.7 percent or 62.28 points to finish the session at 8,806.04.

A2 Milk Company Ltd rose 3.6 percent, while Synlait Milk Ltd strengthened 2.7 percent. (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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