April 21, 2017 / 7:13 AM / 4 months ago

Australia shares end higher, metal prices boost miners; NZ up

(Updates to close)

April 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares finished higher on Friday as miners rebounded on higher metal prices, and investors shrugged off news of a U.S. trade probe into Chinese steel exports.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.6 percent or 32.71 points up at 5854.1, but it was still down 0.6 percent on the week.

Iron ore futures in China, Australia's major trading partner surged 7 percent on Friday, extending hefty gains for a second session along with steel prices.

Market sentiment towards mining stocks remained bullish, even after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the trade probe against China and other exporters of cheap steel into the U.S. market, raising the possibility of new tariffs.

Material stocks have been under pressure this week over worries of a production glut that had weakened the commodity prices.

The Aussie market was also supported by Wall Street, which rallied overnight on strong corporate earnings, and as traders cheered news that the U.S. tax reform is finally underway.

Materials and financials were the top perfomers on the benchmark. Big miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto ended higher as did the 'big four' banks.

Utility shares rose, with shares of DUET Group surging 9.5 percent after announcing that the Australian government had given its approval to the company's $5.5 billion takeover by Cheung Kong Infrastructure (CKI) consortium.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 9.17 points or 0.1 percent up at 7197.22, but the index fell 0.45 percent for the week.

Consumer stocks and healthcare shares underpinned Friday's gains. a2 Milk Company Ltd finished 1.9 percent higher, while Metlifecare Ltd added 0.5 percent.

Reporting by Anusha Ravindranath in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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