July 2, 2018 / 3:26 AM / 15 days ago

Australian shares helped higher by real estate sector; NZ up

* Gains in real estate stocks drive benchmark higher

* Aussie healthcare index set to snap 6 sessions of losses

* Financials cautious ahead of RBA rate decision

By Nikhil Nainan

July 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged higher on Monday in their first trading day of the new financial year, helped by buying in real estate stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ticked up 10.9 points to 6,205.6 by 0257 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.3 percent on Friday.

The S&P/ASX 200 real estate index recovered much of its losses from last week, after slipping nearly 2 percent.

“Real estate was sold down hard in the lead up to the end of financial year last week, so that whole sector is bouncing back,” said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets and Stockbroking.

The Aussie healthcare index was on track to gain after six straight session of losses, with biotherapeutics company CSL leading the gains and helping offset some of the big losses in shares of Sigma Healthcare Ltd.

The pharmacy operator lost nearly half of its value on Monday after it failed to extend a supply contract with Chemist Warehouse, which was snapped up by EBOS Group. The stock was down over 45 percent at one point.

CSL, on the other hand, was up as much as 1.9 percent as the Australian dollar weakened against its U.S. peer. The stock fell about 3 percent last week.

McCarthy said the stock, which had gained substantially over the last 12 months, had seen some selling over the previous week as investors locked in their gains.

“So I suspect the bounce back today comes as the selling pressure has been released.”

Healthcare stocks, which earn a substantial portion of their income in the United States, have benefited from a weaker Australian dollar of late.

In the financial sector, the ‘Big Four’ were a mixed bag ahead of Tuesday’s Reserve Bank of Australia policy meeting, with National Australia Bank marginally up.

As global sentiment sours, the Aussie central bank is seen holding rates at record lows well into 2019, according to a Reuters poll.

“While there is no clarity on how severe US-China trade tensions could become, the RBA is more likely than not to be cautious and assume a dovish tilt, if anything,” Mizuho said in a note.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 percent or 17.93 points to 8,961.06.

Shares of EBOS Group soared to a record high after it snapped up the deal to distribute pharmaceutical products to over 400 Chemist Warehouse and My Chemist stores in Australia from Sigma.

EBOS estimated sales from the contract would add about A$1 billion to revenue in the first year after the agreement.

For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Syed Saif Hussain Naqvi Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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