September 14, 2018 / 6:47 AM / a year ago

Australian shares end higher as investors by on the cheap; NZ rises

* Aussie shares bounce on bargain hunting

* Banks and materials lead gains

* NZ closes higher on utilities and health care (Updates to close)

By Aditya Soni

Sept 14 (Reuters) - Australian bounced on Friday as investors took the opportunity to buy cheapened stocks amid an improvement in global sentiment, while higher commodity prices bolstered demand for materials, especially miners.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 percent or 36.60 points to 6,165.30 at the close of trade, having fallen 0.8 percent on Thursday, as moves toward fresh tariff talks between China and the United States helped to ease trade tensions.

The benchmark posted a weekly gain of 0.4 percent but was still down 2.4 percent since the beginning of the month as the trade war fears fray nerves.

“We are seeing bargain hunting now, I think some of the more rational money is coming back into the market and its picking up some of the things like banks, and some of the resources sector as well,” said Dale Raynes, Associate Director at CPS Capital.

The scandal-afflicted financials led the gains on Friday, with Westpac Banking Corp rising 0.7 percent, and top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia gaining 0.5 percent.

Banks and insurers have been under the cosh as the latest revelations of a high profile inquiry into the sector exposes widespread wrongdoing by firms.

In contrast, metals and mining index was in sturdy shape, jumping 1.4 percent to its highest since Sept. 4 thanks to a surge in Dalian iron ore futures.

Global miner BHP firmed 1.6 percent to a more than one-week high and was the biggest boost to the benchmark, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd rose 1.2 percent to its highest since August 29.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 percent or 21.77 points to finish the session at 9,270. It posted a weekly gain of 1.9 percent.

Utilities and Health care stocks underpinned gains, with Meridian Energy Ltd jumping 1.7 percent to a record high, while Ryman Healthcare Ltd strengthened 1.3 percent. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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