Feb 13 (Reuters) - Mining stocks drove Australian shares higher on Monday after iron ore and copper prices jumped, with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto accounting for most of the gains.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 27.59 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,748.2 by 0045 GMT with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto rising 2.1 percent and 3 percent, respectively.
“It is the miners (driving the gains) to an extent. The material sector is the strongest performing sector. A lot of the strength is coming from the materials but there are other pockets of strengths in the market as well,” said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.
“Australian companies are doing quite well despite a somewhat challenging environment globally,” Conway added.
Chinese iron ore futures jumped nearly 8 percent on Friday to their highest level in three years, lifted by news that January imports into the world’s second largest economy surged on the back of a sharp uptick in demand from steel mills.
Copper prices also rose, soaring to their highest in over 20 months on Friday, after BHP Billiton declared force majeure due to a strike at the world’s biggest copper mine in Chile.
Fortescue Metals Group Ltd advanced 4.2 percent, extending gains into a second session, while OZ Minerals Ltd jumped as much as 5.2 percent to hit a near five-year high.
The benchmark index also got a lift from strong earnings of companies in other sectors, such as retailer JB Hi-Fi Ltd , which jumped 5.8 percent after it reported a 24 percent jump in sales for the six-months ended Dec. 31.
Rail freight company Aurizon Holdings Ltd rose as much as 5.4 percent to touch a more than one-year high after it reported an 18 percent rise in its first half underlying profit.
Newcrest Mining Ltd, Australia’s top gold miner, was up 1.5 percent after it said it quadrupled its half-year underlying profit on the back of stronger gold prices and cost cuts.
Rubber products maker Ansell Ltd defied the rally, falling more than 3 percent after it posted a flat profit growth for its half-year ended Dec. 31.
Seven constituent stock in the benchmark index posted fresh 52-week highs on Monday.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent or 27.38 points to 7,131.81, with utilities and materials stocks accounting for most of the gains.
Contact Energy was the biggest gainer, rising 3.1 percent after it reported a 12 percent rise in its first-half underlying profit.
Fletcher Building and Metro Performance Glass were among the other gainers, rising 1.9 percent and 1.3 percent respectively.
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Reporting By Shashwat Pradhan; Additional reporting by Hanna Paul in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes