August 29, 2018 / 2:34 AM / a month ago

Australian shares up on hopes for easing trade tensions; NZ jumps as trade resumes

* Easing global trade war fears raise investor optimism

* Rising commodity prices support material stocks

* NZ shares up as trade resumes after system glitch on Tuesday

By Nikhil Nainan

Aug 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Wednesday, led by gains in heavily-weighted financials and materials stocks and as investors hoped for an easing in global trade tensions.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.3 percent, or 20.4 points to 6,325.1 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.6 percent on Tuesday.

Financial stocks provided the biggest boost, with insurance players Suncorp Group and QBE Insurance Group among the top percentage gainers, adding well over 1 percent each.

Investors usually see financials as stocks that yield the greatest value, and “banks are a natural area to go to,” said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets and Stockbroking.

The ‘Big Four’ banks posted gains, with National Australia Bank leading the way with a more than 1 percent rise.

“The financial sector has felt the most pressure over the last four weeks or so, particularly when the market has been weak. Now ironically, that puts them back in a position where some might consider them good value,” McCarthy said.

Material stocks were supported by a rise in most commodity prices as the U.S.-Mexico trade deal raised hopes for an agreement between the United States and China.

Global miner BHP, on course for a fifth straight positive session, was up 1 percent.

Gold stocks slid after the gold price fell as much as 1 percent overnight on concerns about China-U.S. trade tensions. The precious metal edged up in early Wednesday trade.

The gold index was down over 1 percent at one point but pared some early losses. St Barbara led weak gold shares, falling 2.5 percent.

Boral Ltd jumped more than 8 percent after the building products maker reported a higher annual profit and forecast a 20 percent or more rise in core earnings from its North American division in fiscal 2019.

Sharp falls in Telstra weighed on the index as the telecoms company traded ex-dividend.

Virgin Australia Holdings, the country’s number two airline, slid 4 percent. The airline flagged higher fuel costs despite swinging back into an annual underlying profit.

Trading on New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index resumed after system glitches halted action on Tuesday. The market was 1.2 percent or 109.51 points higher to 9,323.53.

Dairy producer a2 Milk Company rose 3.2 percent, while Synlait Milk Ltd, in which a2 Milk holds a nearly 18 percent stake, was up 6.9 percent. For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan, additional reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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