March 17, 2017 / 1:57 AM / in 9 months

Australian stocks up on financials, NZ also higher

March 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares traded higher on Friday with financials accounting for more than half of the gains, after National Australia Bank Ltd raised home investor loan rates to clamp down on the “strong growth” in the segment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 percent, or 15.31 points, at 5,801.10 as of 0114 GMT. The benchmark is on track for a second week of gains.

“This morning, all of the rise in the index can just be attributed to the four major banks, with NAB being the strongest gainer,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

The ‘Big Four’ banks gained between 0.5 percent to 1.1 percent.

National Australia Bank, whose shares rose as much as 0.8 percent, hiked its interest rates on residential investment loans by 25 basis points to 5.80 percent on Thursday, becoming the first of the country’s ‘Big Four’ lenders to raise mortgage rates.

“In terms of NAB’s announcement yesterday, the expectation is that the other banks will follow,” said Patersons Securities economist Tony Farnham.

Materials were the second biggest gainers on the index with Rio Tinto Ltd up as much as 1.2 percent, extending gains into a fifth session of trading.

Both copper and Chinese iron ore rose for a fifth session on Thursday, while Shanghai rebar steel futures hit a three-year high.

Gold prices held firm on Friday not far from one-week highs hit the session before, and remaining on course for their first weekly rise in three. Newcrest Mining Ltd rose as much as 2 percent.

Oil prices slipped on Thursday as U.S. crude inventories near record high levels which raised concerns whether OPEC-led output cuts were starting to drain a global glut. Oil prices, however, edged up in early trading on Friday.

Australian energy stocks were also among the losers with natural gas company Santos Limited losing 1.5 percent and Origin Energy Ltd down 2.1 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 percent to 7,168.16 points, helped by gains in industrials and healthcare sectors. The benchmark is on track to snap two weeks of gains.

Auckland International Airport Ltd and Summerset Group Holdings Ltd rose 0.4 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. (Reporting by Sindhu Chandrasekaran in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Urvashi Goenka; Editing by Randy Fabi)

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