February 15, 2018 / 6:55 AM / 3 months ago

Australia shares higher on resources boost; NZ flat

* Aussie shares up 1.2 pct as materials lead

* Jobs up again in Jan, longest run of gains on record

* NZ slightly higher (Updates to close)

Feb 15 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose over 1 percent on Thursday, shrugging off higher than expected U.S. inflation data and boosted by gains in top resources stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 1.2 percent, or 67.8 points, to 5,909. The benchmark fell 0.3 percent on Wednesday.

Wall Street surged on Wednesday as investors shrugged off stronger-than-expected inflation data and snapped up shares of Facebook, Amazon.com and Apple.

Among Australian equities, material stocks led the gains, supported by firm commodity prices, with heavyweights BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto closing 4.6 percent and 4.1 percent higher, respectively. Both stocks ended higher for a fourth straight session.

Iron ore futures in China climbed to their strongest in three weeks, while London copper rose for a fourth day to the highest in 10 days.

Sentiment was also supported by data showing the country’s streak of employment gains reached the longest on record in January, while unemployment fell a tick and female participation in the workforce climbed to an all-time high.

In the financial sector, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd and National Australia Bank Ltd rose between 1.5 percent and 1.6 percent.

Origin Energy Ltd more than tripled its half-year underlying profit on the back of soaring energy prices, sending its shares up 6.9 percent.

Other energy stocks also gained as prices rose after Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said major oil producers would prefer tighter markets to early exits from cuts.

Meanwhile, shares of South32 Ltd slid 5.4 percent to its weakest close since Dec. 29. The slow pace of a previously announced $750 million share buyback, as well as rising costs, weighed on investors’ minds, analysts said.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed marginally higher, rising 0.06 percent or 4.53 points to settle at 8,063.33.

Losses in material and utility stocks were offset by gains in healthcare and industrial stocks.

Fletcher Building Ltd lost 1.3 percent and energy generator and retailer Contact Energy Ltd fell 0.9 percent.

Medical device maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd ended 0.8 percent higher. (Reporting by Chris Thomas and Nicole Pinto in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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