August 12, 2014 / 2:26 AM / 3 years ago

Australia shares rise on easing Ukraine tensions, business confidence

* ASX 200 higher for second day, gains across all sectors

* 170 shares higher, 23 shares lower, 7 shares unchanged (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong and Naomi Tajitsu

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares climbed 0.9 percent on Tuesday to follow Wall Street higher, with gains across most sectors as investors bought equities as geopolitical tensions in Ukraine eased and local business confidence improved.

U.S. stocks ended higher on Monday, extending the rally from Friday as investors hoped that Russia’s move to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine would ease tensions between the two countries.

Among banks, Westpac Banking Corp climbed 1.2 percent, National Australia Bank added 1.1 percent, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 0.9 percent. Westpac announced its New Zealand chief Peter Clare had resigned.

The S&P/ASX 200 index jumped 52.2 points to 5,508.3 by 0203 GMT. The benchmark added 0.4 percent on Monday, snapping six days of losses.

The benchmark hit a six-year peak of 5,644.2 on July 31, but has fallen some 150 points with investors worrying that the U.S. Federal Reserve may raise interest rates sooner than expected, and on the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.

“I think it’s more index buying across the market as opposed to individual sectors”, said Ben Clark, a portfolio manager at TMS Capital in Sydney which owns shares in CSL and listed law firm Slater & Gordon.

A measure of Australian business conditions hit the highest in four years in July, as firms reported a sharp pick-up in sales and profitability, helping to support gains in the market.

In the defensive space, grocer Woolworths Ltd dipped 0.9 percent after saying its Masters home improvement business would miss its guidance, posting a bigger loss this year than last year and not breaking even until after 2016.

Australia’s biggest telecommunications provider Telstra Corporation Ltd added 0.7 percent after paying $270 million to buy out Silicon Valley-based video platform company Ooyala, raising its 23 percent stake to 98 percent under the deal.

“I think it will be a game changer in Australian media - Telstra already has the largest customer base,” said Peter Esho, managing partner at 100 Doors.

Among companies reporting earnings, Dominos Pizza Enterprises Ltd bounced 6.5 percent after its financial year net profit soared 47.6 percent to A$42.3 million.

Slater & Gordon Ltd climbed 5 percent to two-week highs of A$5.17 after the law firm said its group revenue bounced 40.4 percent to A$418.5 million and announced two acquisitions that would have an annual revenue of A$39 million.

Satellite communications provider Speedcast debuted at A$1.95 before steadying to its list price of A$1.96.

New Zealand’s benchmark NZX50 index slipped 2.7 points to 5,046.97, hovering around a four-month low hit on Monday.

Shares were led down by a fall in retirement village operator Summerset, which stumbled 2.7 percent to a 13-month low of NZ$2.83 after the company posted a smaller rise in first-half profits compared with last year.

But losses were tempered by a near 9 percent jump in PGG Wrightson to a two-month high of NZ$0.43 after the agricultural services company posted a bigger-than-expected rise in full-year profits. (Editing by Eric Meijer)

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