June 19 Australian shares rose on Monday, helped
by strength in the financial sector, which accounted for more
than half the gains on the index.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.3 percent, or 15.27
points, to 5,789.30 by 0431 GMT. The index ended 0.2 percent
higher on Friday.
The benchmark index is on track to record its sixth gaining
session out of seven.
The financials index rose as much as 1.1 percent
with the "Big Four" banks gaining between 0.7 percent and 1.4
Investors were responding to the acknowledgement by
Australia's five biggest lenders that they would be able to pay
a new annual levy of about A$4.6 billion without disrupting the
financial system or being driven offshore, although they had
lobbied hard against the proposed charge.
The desire for high dividend yields - which are a feature of
Australian banking stocks - was a driving factor in financial
sector buying on Monday, said Michael McCarthy, chief market
strategist at CMC Markets.
Sentiment was also boosted by comments from central bank
governor Philip Lowe, who said Australia's economy was likely to
grow a bit faster over the next couple of years.
Packaging company Amcor Ltd rose 1.2 percent,
hitting a one-year high, although consumer staples fell with
Woolworths Limited shedding 3.9 percent.
Energy stocks declined. Oil and gas producer Woodside
Petroleum Ltd lost 0.9 percent to its lowest in more
than six months.
Oil prices reversed Friday's gains following a steady rise
in U.S. production, undermining OPEC's efforts to curb
production in order to tighten supplies.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5
percent or 34.61 points to 7,587.36.
New Zealand's trade minister said on Sunday that the United
States has indicated it is open to a free trade agreement (FTA)
with export-dependent New Zealand, which might help boost the
country's $180 billion economy.
The index hit a high not seen in more than nine months,
extending gains to a fifth straight session, supported by
advancing consumer staples and utilities stocks. A2 Milk Company
Ltd climbed 6 percent to a record high while Meridian
Energy Ltd rose 1.7 percent.
(Reporting by Sindhu Chandrasekaran in Bengaluru; Additional
reporting by Sandhya Sampath; Editing by Eric Meijer)