April 23, 2019 / 1:35 AM / 6 months ago

Australia shares rise to 8-month high on resource sector, NZ at new peak

* Higher commodity and oil prices boost Australian shares

* Gold stocks cap some enthusiasm

* NZ index crosses 10,000 level

By Nikhil Nainan

April 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose to their highest in nearly eight months on Tuesday buoyed by rising commodity prices and supply concerns that supported oil, while New Zealand shares jumped to a record high.

The S&P/ASX 200 index crossed the 6,300 level for the first time since early-September, rising 0.7 percent or 41.80 points, by 0048 GMT as trading resumed after the Easter break. The benchmark had edged higher on Thursday before the Good Friday holiday.

Oil prices jumped to 2019 highs as the United States said it would eliminate all waivers that allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue purchasing limited volumes without facing U.S. sanctions.

Another drop in Iranian exports would further squeeze supply in a market already tightened through U.S. sanctions against Iran and fellow OPEC member Venezuela, along with voluntary cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Energy stocks added more than 2 percent, with Beach Energy and Santos marking the biggest gains, up 4.7 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively.

While resource stocks were bullish, gold miners held back some of the gains among material stocks that had been buoyed by China saying it would keep supporting its economy as pressure lingers.

Australia’s main gold index dropped 1.9 percent with top gold producer Newcrest Mining down more than 2 percent.

With iron ore prices on the rise, Fortescue Metals Group rose 2.8 percent, with its larger steelmaking rivals BHP Group and Rio Tinto up 0.6 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

Mathan Somasundaram, a Blue Ocean Equities market portfolio strategist, said with China’s economic outlook relatively stable and commodity prices strong, the Aussie dollar stands to gain.

The Aussie is often considered a liquid proxy for China which is the top buyer of Australian goods including iron ore and coal.

“That kind of higher currency means the banks tend to move higher as well,” he added.

Financials, the biggest constituent to the benchmark index, were largely in positive territory.

The country’s No. 2 bank Westpac Banking Corp was up 0.8 percent, gains mirrored by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

“It all comes down to the banks,” Somasundaram said. “Our market is holding around these levels and I think if the banks finish relatively strong, it will be even higher.”

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose to a record high of 10,036 points. It stood 0.6 percent higher at 0126 GMT.

Heavyweight a2 Milk Company gained more than 2 percent, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare neared 4 percent.

For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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