October 23, 2017 / 1:52 AM / 10 months ago

Australia shares hits near 6-month high, supported by financials

Oct 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose to a near six-month high and were set for a ninth straight session of gains on Monday, as financial stocks rallied on record Wall Street closes in the previous session.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 5.61 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,912.6 at 0030 GMT, after climbing as much as 0.3 percent to its highest since May 3. The benchmark rose 0.2 percent on Friday.

U.S. stocks hit record closing highs on Friday after the Senate approved a 2018 budget blueprint, lifting hopes that President Donald Trump’s tax-cut plan may move forward.

“The leads from Wall Street are definitely contributing to today’s strength (in the Australian market),” said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.

“Our market had been range-bound for almost 22 weeks ... we’ve finally broken higher and got some good momentum, and I think it’s just a continuation of that momentum early this week, and banks continue to drive it,” said Conway.

The financial index gained 0.4 percent, also heading for a ninth consecutive session of gains.

Shares of the “Big Four” lenders rose in the range of 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia recovering from an early drop to hit a near 10-week high.

Among material stocks, iron-ore miner Fortescue Metals Group rose as much as 2.2 percent after Chinese iron ore futures jumped more than 5 percent on Friday, boosted by a rally in steel prices.

Global miner Rio Tinto also eked out some gains, while BHP Billiton fell nearly 0.8 percent.

“BHP has a large exposure to oil as well, so oil prices which did next to nothing on Friday may be weighing on the stock,” said Conway.

Telstra Corp rose as much as 1.7 percent, its biggest intra-day percentage gain in a week.

Meanwhile, gold miners Newcrest Mining fell to its lowest in over two weeks, while Evolution Mining slipped 1.5 percent, as optimism surrounding U.S. tax reform boosted riskier assets and dragged gold prices.

New Zealand markets were closed for a holiday on account of Labour Day.

Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes

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