May 11, 2018 / 3:17 AM / 17 days ago

Aussie shares firm as miners gain; New Zealand at record high

* Australia shares on track for 5 straight gains

* New Zealand clocks best winning streak in 7 mths

By Ambar Warrick

May 11 (Reuters) - Australian shares were on track to end the week higher as a spillover of positive sentiment from Wall Street, coupled with stronger material stocks prompted extended gains in local equities.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 18 points or 0.31 percent to 6,137.6 by 0239 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.18 percent on Thursday, and was on track to gain more than 1 percent for the week.

Stephen Innes, head of trading in Asia-Pacific for Oanda saw investors’ appetite for risk improving “especially in the commodities sector”, but added that a weaker Australian dollar may be holding back gains.

Shares in miners rose thanks to sustained gains in copper and zinc prices.

BHP rose about 0.7 percent and South32 rose 1 percent, giving the benchmark the biggest boost.

The Chilean copper commission said earlier this week that BHP’s Escondida copper mine, the world’s largest, tripled its production in the first quarter of 2018.

Consumer discretionaries also rose, with media house Seven West Media and betting house Tabcorp Holdings rising more than 3 percent each.

On the other hand, embattled wealth manager AMP Ltd served as the biggest drag on the index, falling about 6.8 percent to a near 7-year low.

Recent revelations of management misconduct in the company prompted a rating downgrade by investment bank Macquarie Group . AMP could suffer A$35 billion ($26.34 billion) in investor outflows as a result of those revelations, Macquarie said.

NEW ZEALAND AT RECORD HIGH

New Zealand shares gained for eight consecutive sessions, and touched a record high.

The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 30.2 points or 0.35 percent to 8,667.92. The index was on track to gain about 1.4 percent for the week. Healthcare stocks led gains, with Ryman Healthcare serving as the biggest boost to the benchmark.

The stock rose 3 percent to a record high as investors bought ahead of the firm’s full year results.

New Zealand’s central bank kept its official cash rate unchanged on Thursday, saying inflation remained below its target despite robust economic growth in the country.

“Equities do look a lot more attractive with interest rates not expected to rise any time soon,” said Tom McBride, investment advisor at Hamilton Hindin Greene.

$1 = 1.3286 Australian dollars Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shanima A; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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