Dec 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares were higher on Friday as a rise in financials and materials was offset by decline in consumer stocks.
The S&P/ASX 200 index, which added 2.6 percent in previous the three sessions, was up 0.3 percent, or 15.365 points, at 5,559.20 by 0119 GMT.
Financials stocks continued their strong run, with the “Big Four” banks contributing the most gains to the broader index.
“(Australian) banks remain the best of the bunch with a gross yield around 8.5 percent in 2017 there is enough premium in the yield to counter the bad-debt cycle while the regulatory and interest rate cycle outlook is improving,” Mathan Somasundaram, a quantitative strategist with Baillieu Holst, said in a note.
Materials stocks were flat after gaining all week as Chinese steel and iron ore futures continued to rally following upbeat trade data.
The ASX mining index has risen nearly 58 percent so far this year, in line with surging iron ore prices.
Miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto gained about half a percent each, while Fortescue Mining Group , which has nearly quadrupled its value this year, was trading in narrow ranges.
“We’ve had a strong run this week. We’re up about 2 percent and are headed towards 5,600, the top end of this year’s trading range. However, we’re missing a bit of a catalyst today,” said Chris Weston, an institutional dealer with IG Markets.
Advancing oil prices drove energy shares higher, with oil major Woodside Petroleum adding 2.1 percent.
At the other end of the spectrum, losses in the consumer sector were led by China-exposed casino operator Crown Resorts , which dropped as much as 8 pct.
A report in the South China Morning Post said the Monetary Authority of Macau is preparing to halve the amount of cash China UnionPay card holders can withdraw from ATM machines.
Declines in Sirtex Medical rubbed off on the healthcare sector as the medical device maker fell as much as 52 pct to its lowest since Jan 2014, after it cut its FY17 guidance.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was down 0.2 percent, or 16.11 points, at 6,898.49.
Losses in telcos and industrials weighed on gains in energy and financial shares.
Auckland International Airport and Port of Tauranga lost 0.7 percent and 0.5 percent respectively, while Spark New Zealand entered its third day of losses, down 1.6 percent.
Z Energy gained 0.7 percent. Insurer Tower Ltd was 3.7 percent higher.
Reporting by Suhail Hassan Bhat in Bengaluru; Additional Reporting by Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore