March 23, 2017 / 1:33 AM / 4 months ago

Australia shares head for first gain in four sessions; NZ lower

3 Min Read

March 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged up on Thursday, led by a rally in basic material and industrial stocks, after three straight sessions of declines triggered by doubts about U.S. President Donald Trump's pro-growth policies.

Some investors fear that if Trump's healthcare reform act runs into trouble or takes longer than expected to pass, then his tax reform policies may also face setbacks.

The current House Republican plan is scheduled for a floor vote on Thursday.

The S&P/ASX 200 index had risen 0.1 percent, or 3.99 points, to 5,688.5 by 0053 GMT, after closing 1.6 pct lower in the previous session, its sharpest fall in over four months.

"Yesterday was clearly a big risk-off trade day and it's sort of pulling through across the board," said Evan Lucas, a market strategist at IG Markets.

"The Australian market as a whole is experiencing a little bit of a pull-up from yesterday's selling."

Australia's three biggest miners by market value, BHP Billiton Ltd, Rio Tinto Ltd and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd rose in a range of 1 percent to 1.3 percent.

The rally came on the back of copper rebounding from a two-week low on Wednesday as investors took advantage of a correction to rebuild long positions.

Industrials and utilities also piggybacked on broad-based gains, with Seven Group Holdings Ltd leading the rise in industrials, while Origin Energy Ltd was the biggest gainer among utilities.

Energy stocks rose as oil prices recovered, with Oil Search Ltd and Santos Ltd up 0.8 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

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New Zealand's benchmark stock index was 0.27 percent lower at 7,040.95 after the country's central bank held interest rates at a record low of 1.75 percent but reiterated global uncertainty.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand said it would stay on hold for a considerable period of time, while underscoring that numerous uncertainties remain, especially in respect of international outlook.

The benchmark stock index was dragged down by consumer and financial stocks, with Fletcher Building Ltd down 5 percent.

Westpac Banking Corp and ANZ's NZ-listed stocks were down 0.6 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

Telcos were led down by Spark New Zealand, which fell 1 percent after TeamTalk Ltd's directors rejected Spark's takeover offer. (Reporting by Rushil Dutta; Additional reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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