April 16, 2018 / 3:15 AM / 7 days ago

Australia shares rise as Syria taken in stride; NZ down

* Aussie shares up as miners and banks lead

* NZ shares down as much as 0.5 pct, health stocks drag

By Chris Thomas

April 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Monday in line with broader markets on relief that the fallout from U.S.-led strikes on Syria over the weekend appeared limited, with miners BHP Billiton and South32 leading the gains.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.4 percent or 22.4 points to 5,851.5 by 0250 GMT, after rising 0.7 percent earlier to touch an over three-week high. The benchmark rose 0.2 percent on Friday.

The United States, France and Britain launched missiles targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Douma earlier in April.

“The markets are taking the surgical strike at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapon program in stride as traders had priced in this outcome with a high degree of probability,” Stephen Innes, head of trading in Asia-Pacific for OANDA in Singapore, said in a note.

BHP climbed as much as 2.2 percent to a near seven-week high, while South32 jumped 5.5 percent to its best since mid-Feb on strong aluminium prices.

Aluminium hit a six-year high on Friday, after the United States imposed sanctions on Russia’s UC Rusal, the world’s second-biggest producer.

Alumina Ltd rose 3.7 percent to a seven-year high.

Financial stocks also offered support, with Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank up 1 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

The energy index climbed 1.7 percent to its highest since early Feb., with Origin Energy jumping 3.7 percent and Woodside Petroleum up 1.4 percent.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2 percent or 19.61 points to 8,395.16 by 0250 GMT.

Healthcare stocks led the losses, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation and Ryman Healthcare down between 1.3 percent and 2.2 percent.

Natural health products maker Comvita Ltd lost 3.2 percent after it slashed its full-year profit forecast.

Dairy stock a2 Milk Company was up 2.3 percent after it announced plans to expand into South Korea. (Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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