October 31, 2018 / 6:21 AM / 18 days ago

Australian shares close higher, led by banks; NZ gains

* Aussie shares suffer worst month in over 3 years

* Bank gains prop up index

* Energy stocks rise on higher oil prices (Updates to close) Australian shares rose on Wednesday, boosted by financials stocks and improved global investor sentiment, driving the local index to its fourth straight session of gains.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.43 percent, or 25.2 points, higher at 5,830.300. It rose 0.1 percent in the previous session.

However, the benchmark posted a decline of 6.1 percent for the month, its biggest monthly drop since August 2015 as a bitter trade war and worries over U.S. corporate earnings wiped trillions of dollars wiped out of global equity markets.

Financials underpinned the gains on Wednesday, rising 0.9 percent to post a fourth straight day of gains.

Sector heavyweight Commonwealth Bank of Australia was the biggest boost to financial stocks as it announced the sale of its asset management arm for $2.9 billion, equivalent to 17.5 times the unit’s annual net profit.

Meanwhile, No.3 lender Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rose 1.1 percent as it reported a lower than expected fall in its cash second-half profit.

The energy sector also advanced with sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum Ltd rising 2.3 percent and Caltex Australia Ltd gaining 3.1 percent.

The jump in energy stocks was supported by oil prices, which climbed for the first time in three days.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained 1.2 percent or 103.93 points to finish the session at 8,752.31. The benchmark has lost 6.4 percent this month.

Dairy giant a2 Milk Co Ltd added 2.5 percent while Synlait Milk Ltd rose by 3.83 percent at close. (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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