January 17, 2019 / 6:00 AM / a month ago

Australia shares gain for third session; metal firms shine

* South32 climbs on rise in coking coal output

* Whitehaven leads gains in energy stocks

* NZ benchmark ends at more than 3-month high (Updates to close)

Jan 17 (Reuters) - Australia’s share index closed at its highest in more than two months on Thursday, helped by stronger materials and energy stocks, though investors held off on making big bets ahead of a slew of production reports by major resource companies.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 14.9 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,850 for its third straight session of gains. It had advanced 0.4 percent on Wednesday.

The metals and mining sector rose 0.7 percent, bolstered mainly by diversified miner South32, which gained 3.6 percent after its second-quarter coking coal output nearly doubled.

Metals stocks also gained from firmer commodity prices. London copper prices rose for a third session in a row on Thursday as China’s move to inject liquidity into the financial system boosted expectations of higher demand in the world’s top industrial metals consumer.

Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group firmed 1.8 percent while diversified miner and index heavyweight Rio Tinto , which will report its quarterly production on Friday, gained about 1 percent.

Mining giant BHP Group is set to report second-quarter production next week, along with oil and gas players Oil Search and Santos. Resource stocks are the second largest sector on the benchmark.

Whitehaven Coal firmed more than 3.7 percent after its second-quarter coal production rose 11 percent. The stock was also the biggest boost to the energy index.

Woodside Petroleum pared earlier gains to finish 0.7 percent higher after it reported a surge in quarterly revenue but flagged higher-than-expected investment costs for 2019.

Financials moved higher in tandem with their Wall Street peers as Bank of America Corp and Goldman Sachs Group Inc reported strong earnings overnight, boosting investor sentiment.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd finished the session 0.7 percent up, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia Ltd advanced 0.3 percent.

Australia’s financial sub-index rose 0.4 percent, scaling a near 1-1/2-month high, with wealth manager AMP Ltd putting on 2.3 percent to be around the top percentage gainers among finance stocks.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose about 0.6 percent, or 50.37 points, to 9,077.81, a more than three-month high.

Consumer stocks such as Synlait Milk and a2 Milk rose about 2.9 percent and 2.5 percent respectively. (Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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