* Materials stocks lead benchmark higher
* Vicinity Centres Re to set up A$1 bln property fund
By Aaron Saldanha
Aug 6 (Reuters) - Australian shares were up in Monday morning trade, as strength in iron ore prices drove up material stocks while investors were largely focused on earnings results due later in the week.
Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange hit it highest since early March on Friday as the Sino-U.S. trade tensions escalated. LME-traded copper rose 1.1 percent.
“Commodities bounced on Friday night and that has flowed through to our materials plays this morning,” said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.
“This week’s action will be very much dictated by how companies report.”
Mining stocked underpinned broad-based gains in the S&P/ASX 200 index, which was up 0.8 percent to 6,282 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark slipped 0.1 percent on Friday.
The mining index rose as much as 1.7 percent, with Galaxy Resources Ltd rising the most with a 4 percent gain.
Galaxy said on Monday its deal to sell certain Argentinean assets to South Korea’s POSCO for $280 million was ahead of schedule.
Global miners BHP and Rio Tinto rose 2.3 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.
An index of the country’s financial stocks rose 0.8 percent, pushed higher by Commonwealth Bank of Australia , which rose 1 percent.
Australia’s largest lender is due to report full-year results on Wednesday. A A$700 million ($517.4 million) impairment expected in the results is said to be already priced into the stock.
Wealth manager AMP Ltd is due to report half-year results on Wednesday.
In the real estate space, Vicinity Centres Re Ltd rose as much as 1.9 percent after announcing a A$1 billion ($739.20 million) property fund with a unit of Singapore-listed Keppel Corp Ltd’s asset management arm.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.5 percent to 8,906.08.
Exchange operator NZX Ltd jumped the most in about a week and a half to trade up 0.9 percent. Data showed a spike of about 70 percent in total cash market trades for July.
Synlait Milk Ltd shares were trading 1.3 percent lower, giving back some of Friday’s 2.8 percent gain which came after a2 Milk Company raised its stake in the dairy processor. ($1 = 1.3528 Australian dollars) For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha, additional reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)