August 8, 2018 / 2:49 AM / 4 months ago

Australia shares rise as scandal-hit CBA, AMP gain after results; NZ up

* BHP rises, Brazil iron ore JV may restart ops in 2019

* Aussie energy index continues up to highest since Nov., 2014

* Wealth manager AMP gains most in 1-1/2 weeks

By Aaron Saldanha

Aug 8 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Wednesday morning, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia leading financials higher as its annual profit came slightly ahead of expectations, while the materials sector gained as base metal traders covered some short positions.

Shares of CBA rose 2.7 percent after Australia’s largest bank reported a 4.8 percent fall in full-year cash profits to A$9.23 billion, just ahead of forecasts. The result capped a challenging year for the bank as it battled hefty penalties for malpractices that forced a CEO change, and a severe blow to its reputation from scandals exposed by the ongoing Royal Commission inquiry.

Another firm in the spotlight was top Australian wealth manager AMP Ltd, which has also seen wrongdoing exposed in the inquiry. It posted its worst first-half net profit in 15 years on Wednesday, though its stock rose over 5 percent, possibly reflecting the steep drop this year.

Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets and Stockbroking, said there may have been some buying from investors who were probably waiting to confirm there were “no further nasty surprises” in its results.

Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 percent to 6,266.4 by 0200 GMT, partially recovering from Tuesday’s 0.3 percent loss.

“6,300 proves to be quite a barrier and it looks like it might contain the action today,” CMC’s McCarthy said.

The main index has only closed above the significant 6,300 mark once in more than 10-1/2 years.

Among the miners, BHP rose as much as 2 percent as its iron mining joint venture with Brazil’s Vale SA said it expects to obtain next year all licenses needed to resume operations suspended after a 2015 environmental disaster.

BHP’s rival Rio Tinto rose 0.5 percent. Dalian-traded iron ore, a key commodity for the global miner, extended gains into a fourth straight session and touched its highest in five months.

Australian energy stocks extended gains to reach the highest level in over three and a half years, as Brent crude futures ended Tuesday 1.2 percent higher.

Oil prices rose after U.S. sanctions on Iranian goods went into effect, intensifying concerns that sanctions on Iranian oil, expected in November, could cause supply shortages.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 percent on gains in consumer discretionary and healthcare stocks.

Casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group posted about a 10 percent rise in underlying annual profit, sending the stock up to 3.5 percent higher, the most in over five months.

For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha, Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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