February 2, 2017 / 2:04 AM / 3 years ago

Australia shares steady, miners higher; NZ slightly lower

Feb 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged higher on Thursday, helped by basic materials and energy stocks as the dollar stepped back on disappointment that the Federal Reserve did not take a more hawkish policy stance.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.1 percent or 6.14 points to 5,659.3. The benchmark ended 0.57 percent higher on Wednesday.

The Fed, which stood pat on policy as expected, painted a relatively upbeat picture of the U.S. economy but gave no firm signal on the timing of its next rate move.

The dollar index trimmed about 0.3 percent of its gains on the day after the Fed statement.

The Aussie gained 0.6 percent to $0.7620, after data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed a trade surplus of A$3.51 billion ($2.68 billion) in December, handily outpacing forecasts of A$2.2 billion.

“There is just an assumption that the Fed will be very mindful of the fiscal implications of the spending Trump intends to do,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

“Markets are more focused on how, where, and when he’s gonna spend.”

Basic materials stocks benefited from the pullback in the dollar with the mining and metals index rising about 1 percent higher.

Global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto gained 0.4 percent and 0.8 percent.

However, gold miners were the top performers on the index, owing to higher gold prices after the Fed meeting.

The gold index, which added 2.1 percent, touched a week high as heavy-weights Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining, and OceanaGold Corp, rose between 2 percent and 3 percent.

Oil and gas explorers were the beneficiaries of an overnight rally in oil prices. Prices eventually settled lower after official data showed U.S. crude and gasoline stockpiles rose sharply.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Oil Search Ltd added about 0.4 percent each.

The top performer on the main index, however, was engineering contractor Downer EDI Ltd, which hit a 7-year high, gaining as much as 19.4 percent after posting better-than-expected first-half results and raising its full-year guidance.

The stock posted its biggest percentage gain in over 14 years.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index eased off slightly by 0.05 percent or 3.9 points to 7,051.6, pressured by materials, utilities and real estate stocks.

Goodman Property, Fletcher Builder and Meridian Energy, all lost about 1 percent each. (Reporting by Christina Martin; Additional reporting by Krishna V Kurup in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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