December 27, 2019 / 6:27 AM / a month ago

Australian shares gain on resources, clock third weekly rise

(Updates to close)

Dec 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares advanced for a third straight week this month, and were set to be one of Asia’s top performing indexes in 2019 amid the Sino-U.S. trade war and sluggish domestic economic growth.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.4% higher at 6,821.7 on Friday in a holiday-shortened week amid thin-trade, and is set to climb 20.8% this year.

Early jumps in iron ore and gold prices helped lift the resources sector, with gold stocks among the biggest gainers.

Global miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto added 1.1% and 0.5%, respectively.

Elsewhere, Zip Co Ltd climbed 4.5% after Amazon said shopping in this holiday season was at record levels. Zip is one of the several payment options offered on Amazon Australia.

In the M&A space, nickel miner Independence Group said it would allow its takeover offer for Panoramic Resources to lapse, sending its shares 4.8% higher, as several offer conditions it laid out were breached.

Panoramic, however, slumped 21%.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.4% lower at 11,602.12. It is set to end the year higher for an eighth straight time, rising nearly 32%.

2019 IN FOCUS

The year has seen the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) slash rates to record lows in the hopes of stimulating consumer spending and support the stuttering economy.

Australia’s banks, some of the country’s largest companies, have been plagued with constant claims of wrongdoing, with Westpac Banking Corp ending the year on a particularly sour note after regulators sued the bank for millions of breaches of money-laundering laws.

Low rates and large remediation costs have also hit banks’ earnings.

Yet, the benchmark has thrived, hitting a record high. Miners drove much of the gains due to strong commodity prices, particularly iron ore.

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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