July 5, 2018 / 2:13 AM / in 9 months

Australian shares rise as investors hunt for bargains; NZ flat

* Financials stocks’ gains support the index

* Telstra’s rise spills over to other telcos

* Weak commodity prices weigh on miners

By Nikhil Nainan

July 5 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose in light trade on Thursday, with financials accounting for more than half the gains, as investors shopped for bargains with little guidance from U.S. financial markets, which were closed for Independence Day.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.5 percent, or 31.6 points to 6,215.0 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.4 percent on Wednesday.

The main financial index climbed 0.9 percent, recouping the previous session’s losses, as investors swooped.

“I think what we have got at the moment is probably what we are likely to have for the rest of the day,” said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.

The “Big Four” banks were all in positive territory, with Australia and New Zealand Bank the biggest gainer among the four, up as much as 1.5 percent.

Telstra, which has had a troubled year so far, looked set to extend gains for a fourth session and was among the top gainers on the index.

“Telecom stocks are heavily weighted against Telstra, which we know has not performed well over the last couple of years, and that’s what is driving gains in the telecom sector,” Conway said.

The telecom sector index rose 1.7 percent.

Caltex Australia shares jumped as much as 3.4 percent after leading supermarket operator Woolworths Group entered a 15-year deal with Caltex to supply Woolworths’ chain of petrol stations.

The news helped pull the energy index up 0.7 percent, with higher oil prices supporting the gains in other stocks.

Miners continued this week’s poor run as commodity prices continued to weaken ahead of the Trump administration’s Friday deadline to impose tariffs on Chinese imports.

Global miner Rio Tinto fell as much as 2.3 percent to its lowest in nearly three months, while BHP fell as much as 1.1 percent to its lowest in just over a week.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was roughly flat as gains in telecom stocks were offset by losses in New Zealand’s largest construction firm, Fletcher Building

Index heavyweight Spark New Zealand rose 0.9 percent, while Fletcher Building fell 1 percent.

For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Mensholong Lepcha; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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