* Australian shares led chiefly by materials
* New Zealand on track to end 5 straight losses
By Ambar Warrick
Feb 13 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Tuesday, following a similar rise in U.S. stocks as investors tested the waters after a widespread rout in equities all but obliterated gains made in 2018.
But gains were capped in Australia following a slew of fairly underwhelming corporate earnings, with trading volumes remaining low.
The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.3 percent to 5,838.0 by 0058 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.3 percent on Monday.
“I think markets are going to focus more on macroeconomic factors, such as the U.S. dollar, and economic growth in the country, rather than local trends. The downside risks appear greater for this earnings season,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.
Materials were the best performing sector, with the Metals and Mining Index gaining about 1.4 percent. Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto pushed up the index by about 24 points.
Rio Tinto rose as much as 2.8 percent to a near 1-month high. The miner said that it would invest about C$250 million ($198.66 million) to expand an alumina refinery in Canada.
Financials also rose, although gains were capped as a government-backed enquiry into the sector loomed. The country’s financial index was up about 0.2 percent, as two of the big four banks dragged on the index.
Investment manager Challenger dropped to a 4-month low after clocking a drop in its interim profit.
The inquiry said on Monday it will start a year-long investigation by scrutinising the selling tactics for banks’ most lucrative products - mortgages.
Telecommunication stocks were also higher, with Telstra Corp rising about 1.3 percent. The stock was among the biggest boosts to the Australian benchmark.
On the other hand, building materials maker Boral shed about 2 percent after its interim results came in slightly below estimates.
Hearing-aid maker Cochlear also fell after logging a slight dip in its healf-yearly profit.
New Zealand shares however, were on track to snap five consecutive sessions of losses, underpinned by gains across most sectors.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.7 percent or 56.16 points to 8,115.22.
Healthcare and consumer staples led gains, with Ryman Healthcare gaining about 1 percent, while a2 Milk Co clocked its best session in 3 weeks.
$1 = 1.2584 Canadian dollars Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghil