August 6, 2018 / 6:37 AM / 4 months ago

Australian shares end higher on iron ore rally; NZ gains

* Materials stocks lead benchmark higher

* Vicinity Centres Re to set up A$1 bln property fund

* Firms including CBA, AMP, Mirvac Group due to report results this week (Updates to close)

Aug 6 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Monday, as strong iron ore prices in China helped material stocks while investors were largely focused on earnings due later in the week.

The most-traded September iron ore contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange climbed as much as 6.5 percent to its loftiest since March 9 supported by strong margins at China’s steel producers as Beijing’s anti-pollution fight tightens supply.

The bounce in commodities fed into Australia’s “material plays” said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.

The gains also come despite wider concerns about global trade after a fresh escalation in the Sino-U.S. trade war.

However, investor focus is likely to shift to companies’ earnings announcements this week, Conway added.

Mining stocks were the main driver for gains on the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which ended up 0.6 percent at 6,273. The benchmark slipped 0.1 percent on Friday.

The mining index rose 1.5 percent, with Galaxy Resources Ltd adding the most with a 3.3 percent gain.

Galaxy said on Monday its deal to sell certain Argentine assets to South Korea’s POSCO for $280 million was ahead of schedule.

Global miners BHP and Rio Tinto rose 2.2 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

An index of the country’s financial stocks rose 0.7 percent, pushed higher by a 1 percent rise in Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Australia’s largest lender is due to report full-year results on Wednesday. A A$700 million ($517 million) impairment expected in the results is said to be already priced into the stock.

Wealth manager AMP Ltd is due to report half-year results on Wednesday. Its shares fell 1.4 percent on Monday.

In the real estate space, Vicinity Centres Re Ltd rose 2.6 percent after announcing a A$1 billion property fund with a unit of Singapore-listed Keppel Corp Ltd’s asset management arm.

Property developer Mirvac Group is scheduled to report full-year results on Thursday and ended Monday 1.3 percent higher.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.4 percent at 8,903.13.

New Zealand shares of dairy firm a2 Milk Company supported the main index as they gained 1.3 percent. On Friday, a2 announced a higher stake in dairy processor Synlait Milk Ltd , whose shares recovered from early losses on Monday to trade about flat. ($1 = 1.3539 Australian dollars) For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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