June 12, 2018 / 7:13 AM / a year ago

Australian shares end firmer buoyed by consumer sector; NZ down

* Consumer, pharma stocks support index

* Material stocks cap gains as base metal prices weaken

* NZ shares end slightly lower (Updates to close)

June 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended higher on Tuesday propped up by strength in consumer and pharmaceutical firms and amid a positive outcome at the closely-watched U.S.-North Korea summit.

U.S. President Donald Trump said “a lot of progress” had been made at his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, fuelling hopes of a deal to end a nuclear deadlock on the Korean peninsula.

The S&P/ASX 200 index advanced 0.2 percent or 9.2 points to 6,054.4. Australian financial markets were closed on Monday.

Trump and Kim signed a “comprehensive” document following a historic summit in Singapore, setting in motion a diplomatic process that could bring lasting change to the security landscape of Northeast Asia.

Only months earlier the two men had traded insults and tensions spiralled in the region over North Korea’s nuclear programmes.

Consumer staples were the top advancers with retail conglomerate Wesfarmers adding as much as 1.3 percent to its best close since the stock’s debut in 1984.

Wesfarmers completed the sale of its loss-making UK home improvement chain Homebase, which it had bought for A$700 million in 2016 and agreed to sell for 1 pound just two years later, ending a disastrous offshore foray.

Healthcare stocks, traditionally considered a safe haven in times of uncertainty, surged to a record close against the backdrop of the U.S.-North Korea meeting.

CSL Ltd was the top boost for the main board and added 1.1 percent to an all-time closing high.

Industrial stocks also helped sentiment with Sydney Airport Holdings Pty Ltd and toll-road operator Transurban Group climbing up to 3.4 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

However, weakness in base metal prices sapped confidence in material stocks which led the decliners on the benchmark.

Global miner Rio Tinto dropped 1.7 percent while rival BHP Billiton Ltd fell 1.1 percent.

Rio Tinto said Jakob Stausholm will succeed Chris Lynch as chief financial officer.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed slightly lower, down 1 point to 8,958.81. The index closed 0.2 percent higher on Monday.

Ryman Healthcare and Auckland International Airport were the top drags, down 1.6 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. (Reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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