September 12, 2017 / 6:50 AM / a year ago

Australia shares scale 3-wk high, financials, materials gain; NZ turn down

(Updates to close)

Sept 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose to a three-week high on Tuesday, lifted by financial and material sectors, as they benefited from Wall Street’s strength after Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm and caused less damage than initially feared.

Investors were also pondering sanctions imposed on North Korea by the United Nations Security Council over the country’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, though there was relief Pyongyang had not test-fired any missiles during the weekend to mark the founding of the reclusive state.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 0.6 percent, or 33.251 points, to 5746.4 for its best close since Aug. 22. The benchmark index extended Monday’s rise.

Among the gainers, Commonwealth Bank of Australia led the financial sector higher with a 2.2 percent gain, while the remaining ‘big four’ banks gained between 0.8 percent and 1.4 percent.

Macquarie Group, Australia’s biggest investment bank, jumped 2.3 percent after it said on Monday that it expects first-half net profit to top its year-ago result thanks to better performance fees.

Material stocks gained as financial markets responded positively to easing of Hurricane Irma that caused Aluminium led Chinese metals futures higher. Steel and iron ore futures in China also advanced as demand remained intact in the world’s top consumer.

Mining giants BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto gained 1.2 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.

South32 Ltd rose 3.9 percent to end the session at a record high.

As investor appetite for risk showed signs of picking up, safe haven assets like gold hit their lowest in over a week on Tuesday and capped gains in related stocks.

Newcrest Mining Ltd lost 1.9 percent while Regis Resources Ltd slumped 5 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.1 percent, or 11.34 points, to finish the session at 7840.41.

The industrial sector was the biggest drag on the index, with Auckland International Airport Ltd down 1.4 percent and Air New Zealand Ltd off 0.7 percent.

The energy sector fell as Z Energy Ltd dropped 1.7 percent. (Reporting by Nicole Pinto in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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