April 13, 2018 / 3:30 AM / 7 months ago

Australia, NZ shares rise as fears of imminent US strike on Syria ease

* Materials gain most; energy shares slip

* Rio Tinto up as much as 2.4 percent, set for 5th straight daily gain

* NZ’s Fletcher Building jumps up to 14 pct on reports of Wesfarmers buying shares

By Aaron Saldanha

April 13 (Reuters) - Australia shares posted broad-based gains on Friday, following global markets higher after fears of an imminent U.S. attack on Syria eased.

President Donald Trump cast doubt on Thursday over the timing of his threatened strike on Syria in response to a reported poison gas attack.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 percent, or 22.1 points, to 5,837.6 by 0251 GMT. It fell 0.2 percent on Thursday.

Aussie shares are set to close the week 0.9 percent higher, up for a second straight week.

Resource stocks performed strongly, with the Australian mining index firming up to 1.1 percent at its highest in more than a month. For the week, the sector index is set to end about 4.7 percent higher as hopes grow that the U.S. and China will be able to put aside testy trade rhetoric and eventually reach a compromise that will avert the risk of a trade war.

“Perhaps some of the concerns over the impact of the rhetoric and discussions around the trade wars has just been a little bit of a reassessment of what the downside actually is,” said Damien Hennessy, co-founder of Heuristic Investment Systems.

“I think that is kind of flowing through to the miners, and the materials sector more generally.”

Global miner Rio Tinto traded up as much as 2.4 percent to its highest since the end of February. The stock is on track to end a fifth straight session higher.

Mining rival BHP rose as much as 1 percent, set to record a sixth straight session of gains.

The financial index was up as much as 0.4 percent, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia trading as much as 0.5 percent higher.

Some of the lender’s units provided the Australian securities regulator with enforceable undertakings for failing provide evidence for annual customer reviews.

Moving in the other direction, energy stocks were 0.1 percent lower after oil prices eased. However, prices of the world most traded commodity were set for the biggest weekly gains since last July.

Australia’s energy index has tacked on 1.9 percent for the week.

ExxonMobil Corp resumed production at the Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas project, after its shut down in the wake of an earthquake in February, its Australian partners Oil Search and Santos said on Friday.

Oil Search Limited rose as much as 1.1 percent and while Santos Ltd slipped as much as 0.8 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.3 percent, or 25.1 points, to 8,429.32, buttressed by materials and health care stocks.

Homebuilder Fletcher Building Ltd jumped up to 14 percent on media reports that Australia’s Wesfarmers Ltd was accumulating Fletcher stock.

However, the company said it could neither confirm nor deny such reports. (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha, Additional reporting by Karthika Namboothiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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