Australian shares post best day in a month on Russia-Ukraine hopes

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  • ASX 200 sees best day since a month
  • Financials, tech stocks top gainers
  • Mining, energy stocks top drags

March 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Thursday as banks and technology stocks rallied amid hopes of some headway in Russia-Ukraine diplomatic talks, although the gains were capped by mining and energy stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 (.AXJO) ended 1.1% higher at 7,130.80, its best session since Feb. 9. The benchmark rose 1% on Wednesday.

Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Turkey ahead of planned talks on Thursday with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba. read more

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Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking, said market sentiment was supported by "the prospects of a peaceful ending (to the Russia-Ukraine conflict) and the fact that oil is starting to come down, not continuing to rise."

Financials (.AXFJ) led gains on the local bourse, climbing 2.8% to notch their best session in over a year. The country's four largest lenders gained between 2.4% and 3.5%.

Technology stocks (.AXIJ) jumped 3.3%, tracking an overnight surge in the tech-heavy Nasdaq index (.IXIC) that rebounded from several days of falls.

Australia-listed shares of Block Inc. added 7.1%, while Computershare (CPU.AX) rose 3.7%.

Bucking the trend, the mining index (.AXMM) dropped 2.2% on weak iron ore prices, with Rio Tinto (RIO.AX), Fortescue Metals Group (FMG.AX) and BHP Group (BHP.AX) slipping between 1.5% and 7.7%.

Rio Tinto marked its worst day since May 2016 as the global miner traded ex-dividend. The company also said it was in the process of ending all commercial relations with Russian businesses. read more

Energy stocks (.AXEJ) declined 2.5% as global oil prices fell most in nearly two years overnight after OPEC member the United Arab Emirates supported pumping more oil into a market roiled by supply disruptions.

Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AX) and Santos (STO.AX) slumped 4.7% and 2.4%, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index (.NZ50) rose 1.2% to 11,926.26, marking its best session since March 1.

Construction firm Fletcher Building (FBU.NZ) and Air New Zealand (AIR.NZ) gained 4.6% and 4.4%, respectively.

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Reporting by Upasana Singh in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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