January 31, 2018 / 6:09 AM / a year ago

Australian shares recover to end higher; NZ gains

(Updates to close)

Jan 31 (Reuters) - Australian shares shrugged off global cues such as lower oil prices and rising bond yields felt earlier in the day to end Wednesday higher as real estate stocks strengthened.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.3 percent or 14.9 points to 6,037.7 after posting a 0.9 percent decline on Tuesday. It ended January 0.5 percent lower, its first losing month in the last four.

“For the past couple of days we have had a bit of caution creeping into the world equity markets ahead of a number of key events that could change the outlook for the bond markets and stock market valuations,” said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Ltd closed near four-week lows, falling 0.5 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, as Chinese iron ore prices fell 2 percent.

Among financials, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) fell 0.2 percent. Australia’s corporate regulator said on Tuesday it had started legal proceedings against CBA over rate-manipulation allegations.

Energy stocks also fell as oil slid, driven by ongoing evidence of rising U.S. crude output, with the sector index ending 0.9 percent lower.

Sirtex Medical soared 45.8 percent and was the benchmark’s top percentage gainer, after accepting Varian Medical Systems’ $1.3 billion takeover offer on Tuesday.

Moving in the other direction, real estate stocks surged after Australian inflation data, which was seen as slightly soft, reduced expectations for an interest rate hike.

Property developer Scentre Group rose 2.7 percent, while Stockland Corp Ltd climbed 1.4 percent.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand shares rose, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rising 1.7 percent or 143.43 points to 8,442.01.

Healthcare stocks and utilities accounted for most of the gains, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd rising 2.5 percent and Auckland International Airport Ltd climbing 3 percent. (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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