* BHP Billiton biggest boost to benchmark
* Macquarie Group rises on A$600 mln capital raise
* New Zealand shares at more than 6-week high
By Ambar Warrick
May 7 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Monday as stronger miners along with robust results from Westpac Banking saw materials and financials lead the index higher.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 34.7 points or 0.57 percent to 6,097.6 by 0242 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.6 percent on Friday.
Financials were stronger, with the sector index rising about 0.4 percent.
Westpac Banking Corp gained 1.5 percent after its half-yearly cash profit rose 6 percent, reflecting strength in its consumer and corporate lending arms.
“It is a good solid report from Westpac... All in all the market seems pleased with the news, and given that the sharp fall we’ve seen in the share price, it does appear that Westpac will garner some support after this morning’s results,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd rose about 0.1 percent after it said it would remove sales incentives for financial planning bonuses, in a move to placate regulators amid a damaging inquiry into the country’s financial sector.
“ANZ are ahead of their peers in this aspect, they’ve already taken significant moves to deal with the structural conflicts involved with the wealth management arm, and the market has focused in on that,” McCarthy added.
Investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd rose about 1.8 percent after it announced a capital raising of A$600 million ($451.68 million) through the issue of notes. The stock was among the biggest intraday gainers on the financial index.
Material stocks were also higher, led chiefly by metals miners as BHP Billiton Ltd rose 1.4 percent.
Sentiment was bolstered by data showing that iron ore shipments to China from Australia’s Port Hedland terminal rose 3.3 percent in April from a month earlier. The port is a major export terminal for BHP, with China accounting for a large chunk of its exports.
Fortescue Metals Group, which also exports from Port Hedland, rose about 0.8 percent.
On the other hand, National Australia Bank extended its falls to a third straight session after reporting a sharp drop in half-year profit on Thursday.
The company had also flagged an intended exit from a part of its wealth management arm, aimed at simplifying its operations.
The stock was about 0.8 percent lower.
Commercial explosives supplier Orica Ltd fell more than 7 percent after its interim underlying profit fell 37 percent. The stock was among the biggest drags on the benchmark.
In New Zealand, the benchmark extended gains to a fourth straight session on largely broad-based gains led by consumer staples and utilities. New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 index rose 34.15 points or 0.4 percent to 8,583.52, its highest in more than six weeks Dairy producer a2 Milk Co rose about 1.3 percent and was the biggest boost to the index. Contact Energy rose about 1.5 percent.
$1 = 1.3284 Australian dollars Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Aaron Saldanha Editing by Eric Meijer