August 19, 2019 / 1:55 AM / a month ago

Australia shares track Wall Street gains, energy firms lead

* Heavyweight financials help benchmark surge

* Rise in oil prices lifts energy stocks

* Gold miners retreat on weaker prices

By Aby Jose Koilparambil

Aug 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares gained on Monday, powered by energy firms and heavyweight financial stocks as retreating recession worries helped Wall Street eke out gains after a tumultuous week.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose about 0.8% to 6,454.20 by 0114 GMT. The benchmark had closed little changed on Friday, losing 2.7% last week.

All three major U.S. stock averages ended higher on Friday as an ebbing bond rally and news of potential German economic stimulus brought buyers back to the equities market.

Global stocks were shaky for most of last week as simmering Sino-U.S. trade tensions and fears of an impending recession sparked by signals from the U.S. bond market kept investors on the edge.

Further relief in the global markets gained momentum after U.S. President Donald Trump said he had discussed the impact of Washington’s tariffs on Chinese goods with Apple chief Tim Cook, sending the U.S. stock futures higher on Sunday.

Riding on the bullish sentiment, the financials subindex rose as much as 1.1%, with all the “Big Four” lenders gaining in the range between 1% and 1.5%.

The No. 2 lender Westpac Banking Corp underperformed the sector, gaining about 1% after it reported a rise in the number of people missing mortgage payments amid a sluggish economy and a soft housing market.

The energy subindex gained as much as 2%, its best intraday percentage gain in seven weeks, on higher oil prices.

Beach Energy Ltd led the sector’s gains after the oil and gas explorer reported a whopping 86% rise in its full year underlying net profit after tax.

Business administration provider Smartgroup Corp surged as much as 25% to its highest price level in more than 10 months after it reported a 5% rise in half year profit and brokerage Morgans raised its rating on the stock to “add” from “hold”.

Meanwhile, metals and mining stock index retreated slightly after Chinese iron ore futures posted their fourth consecutive weekly loss on Friday.

The drop in prices of safe haven gold led to heavy declines among the miners of the yellow metal with Dacian Gold and Oceana Gold losing about 5% each.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3% to 10,690.11.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Co Ltd was the top percentage gainer, rising more than 4%.

Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes

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