May 2, 2018 / 6:56 AM / 21 days ago

Australian shares rise as Qantas surges, banks firm; NZ up too

* Qantas soars on profit forecast, supporting industrials

* Woolworths surges on strong Q3 sales growth

* NZ advances, aided by a2 Milk rally (Updates to close)

May 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares advanced on Wednesday, driven by gains for industrials after Qantas Airways forecast a record annual profit.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 percent or 35.0 points to 6,050.2 at the close of trade. The benchmark on Tuesday added 0.5 percent.

Australia’s largest airline Qantas soared 8.1 percent, its biggest one-day gain since December 2014, to a near six-month high.

The company forecast underlying profit before tax in a range of A$1.55 billion to A$1.60 billion ($1.16 billion-$1.20 billion) for the fiscal year that will end on June 30, compared with A$1.4 billion one year earlier.

Positive sentiment emanating from the “Flying Kangaroo” spilled into other sectors, with the Australian industrials index climbing 1.5 percent to a more than four-month high.

Toll road operator Transurban Group jumped 0.6 percent to its highest since March 12, while Seek Ltd strengthened 2.4 percent to a near six-week high.

Financials extended gains into a fourth-consecutive session, as encouraging developments on big banks supported buying.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the biggest lender, ticked up 0.4 percent while Westpac Banking Corp rose 0.3 percent.

Grocery giant Woolworths Group Ltd rose 0.9 percent to a near three-year high. The company reported a 4.4 percent rise in third-quarter same-store food sales, beating rival Coles’ performance during the same period.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index firmed 0.7 percent or 58.27 points to finish at 8,494.24.

Consumer staples were the dominant gainers, with dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd surging 3.5 percent to a near two-week high. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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