April 24, 2017 / 6:30 AM / 3 months ago

Aussie, NZ shares up as concerns ease on French vote

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(Updates to close)

April 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended slightly higher on Monday as investors unwound their defensive positions following Emmanuel Macron's victory in the first round of French presidential elections.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.3 percent, or 17.66 points, at 5,871.8.

Macron's win, ahead of a May 7 runoff vote, reduces the risk of a French-exit from the European Union, as opposed to far-right leader, Marine Le Pen's staunch separatist stance on the issue.

Financials accounted for more than half of the benchmark's gain, with the sector index up as much as 1.1 percent on a rally in the 'Big Four' Aussie banks and insurers.

Industrials and energy stocks also helped prop up the index after oil companies jumped on a price rally.

Metal stocks, in particular gold and iron miners, fell after prices slipped.

Gold prices fell on a broad safe-haven sell-off after stocks shone, while China's most active iron-ore slipped 1.5 percent.

BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals and Rio Tinto were the biggest drags on the index.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent, or 25.72 points, to finish at 7,222.94, underpinned by materials and consumer discretionary stocks.

The country's biggest listed construction company, Fletcher Building led gains, followed by telecom company Chorus Ltd, which ended 3.2 percent higher. (Reporting by Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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