March 12, 2018 / 12:54 AM / 9 days ago

Australian shares up on U.S. jobs data, possible tariff exemption; NZ rises

* Aussie shares up over 1 pct, miners and banks lead

* Local markets inspired by strong Wall St close after jobs data

* NZ touches record high in thin trade

By Chris Thomas

March 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares climbed about 1 percent on Monday as a firm U.S. jobs data report supported global investor sentiment while material stocks gained on news Australia could be exempt from new U.S. trade tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.8 percent or 44.6 points to 6,007.8 by 0006 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.3 percent on Friday.

The U.S. economy added the biggest number of jobs in over 1-1/2 years in February, data showed, but a slowdown in wage growth pointed to only a gradual increase in inflation this year, which potentially reduces chances of a faster pace of rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.

“The local market is certainly taking positive leads from the data that has eased fears of inflation in the United States,” said Adam Tout, a senior analyst at CPS Capital in Perth, adding that higher commodity prices were also supporting the gains.

The market also responded with cheer after U.S. President Donald Trump said that he was working on a deal so Australia would be exempt from the steel and aluminium tariffs that had roiled markets worldwide.

Material stocks led the gains on the benchmark index, with the metals and mining index rising as much as 1.9 percent, helped by a recovery in base metal prices.

BHP Billiton, the world’s largest miner, was the top boost to the index, up as much as 2.9 percent, while rival Rio Tinto jumped 3.5 percent.

Financial stocks also contributed to the gains, with the “Big Four” banks rising between 0.9 percent and 1.3 percent.

Among other stocks, healthcare giant CSL Ltd climbed 2.4 percent to a record high. Strong oil prices lent support to the market, having risen nearly $2 on Friday after two days of declines, helped by hopes that a meeting between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un could ease geopolitical tensions.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining, however, dragged on the index with a 6 percent drop after it flagged a hit to its full-year guidance as a dam wall breach led to operations being suspended at its main mine.

Newcrest touched its lowest level since Aug. 9.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose over 1 percent, in thin trade, to touch an all-time high.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company was the top gainer on the index, up 4.8 percent at its highest in nearly three weeks.

Natural health products maker Comvita Ltd came second with a 2.8 percent jump. (Editing by Sam Holmes)

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