September 16, 2019 / 2:55 AM / 2 months ago

Australia, NZ shares lower despite energy stocks spike

* Energy stocks gain on spike in oil prices

* Financial sector drags on global growth concerns

* Gold stocks rise on increased safe haven bets

By Nikhil Subba

Sept 16 (Reuters) - A sharp jump in energy stocks on the back of a surge in global oil prices was not quite enough to lift the Australian market on Monday, as the heavyweight financial index dragged on the bourse amid caution on global growth.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.03% or 1.9 points lower at 6,667.30 by 0256 GMT. The benchmark had inched 0.2% higher on Friday.

Oil prices spiked by about 11% after two plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry were attacked on Saturday, knocking out more than 5% of the global oil supply.

Australian energy stocks jumped as much as 5.9% to a near four-month peak. Oil and gas major Woodside Petroleum climbed as much as about 8% to a six-week high, while Santos Ltd rose nearly 9% to its higest level since late 2014.

Conversely, financial stocks, which constitute more than three quarters of the Australian benchmark, slipped almost 1% with all of the “Big Four” banks - Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp, National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group - trading lower.

“While the net effect on the energy sector can be positive from a margin perspective, higher oil prices in general put a drag on economic growth”, said Marc Kennis, principal of Pitt Street Research.

Gold stocks gained almost 3% as prices for the precious metal rose in safe haven buying. Gold miner Northern Star Resources Ltd jumped as much as 7.6% after the company said it would invest $30 million to expand the processing plant at its Pogo gold mine in Alaska.

The broader mining index, rose almost 2% on higher iron ore and nickel prices. BHP Group climbed as much as 6% to its highest in nearly seven weeks.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched 0.2%, or 17.8 points, lower to 10,845.65.

Electricity retailer Meridian Energy fell 2.9% to its lowest in two weeks, while airline operator Air New Zealand shed 2% to hit a low of slightly over three months. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru. Editing by Jane Wardell)

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