February 22, 2018 / 6:26 AM / 6 months ago

Australia shares rise on financials and materials; NZ up on a2 Milk

* Materials and financials stocks help up Aussie shares

* Airline and travel stocks rise on strong earnings

* NZ jumps on a2 Milk (Updates to close)

By Aditya Soni

Feb 22 (Reuters - Australian shares reversed losses seen earlier in the session to finish slightly firmer on Thursday, with financials and materials leading the gains as investors worked through a flood of earnings reports.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 7.2 points or 0.1 percent to 5,950.900 at the close of trade. The benchmark added 2.846 points on Wednesday.

BHP, the world’s biggest miner, rebounded from losses in the past few days to rise 1.3 percent on Thursday, boosting the benchmark.

BHP’s first-half results on Tuesday missed expectations, although shareholders enjoyed a dividend boost.

Meanwhile, banks accounted for most of the gains on the benchmark, with the Australian financial index rising 0.4 percent to its highest in more than two weeks.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the country’s biggest lender by market capitalisation, gained 0.4 percent, while National Australia Bank Ltd added 0.5 percent.

Rising health care stocks also helped cement gains with CSL Ltd up 0.9 percent to a record high.

Travel and aviation stocks attracted investor attention with strong earnings.

Qantas Airways Ltd rose 5.9 percent to its highest since December after it reported a record first-half profit and announced a A$378 million ($295.03 million) share buyback.

Shares of Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd rose to a record high on half-year profit that beat expectations, while online rival Webjet Ltd soared 15 percent as its revenue tripled.

Crown Resorts Ltd, with its turnover boosted by Chinese high rollers, reported a slight rise in first-half profit sending the shares of Australia’s biggest casino operator to a near two-week high.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.8 percent or 66.61 points to finish the session at 8,266.88.

A2 Milk Company Ltd was the benchmark’s primary contributor for a second consecutive session as it surged 9.8 percent to a record high.

Air New Zealand Ltd rose 1.2 percent to a two-week high after boosting its interim dividend and saying it was headed for its second-biggest annual profit.

$1 = 1.2812 Australian dollars Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer

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