* Metal miners, energy stocks biggest boost to ASX 200
* JB Hi-Fi hits record high on strong July-Sept sales
* NZ’s Meridian recovers after biggest drop on Wednesday
By Ambar Warrick
Oct 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Thursday, underpinned by resource stocks tracking higher commodity prices, as signs of robust oil demand in the United States helped ease some concerns over slowing global growth.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.5% or 36.1 points to 6,709.20 at 0058 GMT. The benchmark was flat on Wednesday.
Mining and energy stocks were early Thursday’s best performers, with the two sub-indexes rising 0.5% and 1.6%, respectively.
Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said a big draw-down overnight on U.S. oil inventories was “a direct contradiction of the narrative we’ve seen of slowing growth in the U.S.”.
“Australia is a particular beneficiary because of its higher resources exposure,” he added.
Oil prices rose about 2.5% on Wednesday following the U.S. inventories data.
Major miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto Ltd were up about 0.8% and 0.9%, respectively, tracking strength in copper and iron ore prices.
Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group rose 2% after it reported a rise in first-quarter shipments.
Oil and gas explorer Santos Ltd led gains in energy stocks with a 2.4% advance, while heavyweight Woodside Petroleum moved up 2%.
Electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi Ltd jumped 7.3% to a record high, and was the top gainer on the ASX 200 after posting higher comparable sales growth in July-September.
Given that Australia economic expansion of 2-3% is expected this year, 4.7% growth in JB Hi-Fi sales is seen as an outperformance, McCarthy of CMC Markets said.
Qantas Airways dropped 3.7% and was among the worst performers on the benchmark index after it flagged sluggish domestic growth and a higher annual fuel bill.
Gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd dropped more than 1% after its quarterly output fell. The company also flagged delays at a planned project in Papua New Guinea.
New Zealand shares rose slightly, with major energy retailers recovering from steep sell-offs on Wednesday when the benchmark tumbled 2.1%, its worst day in more than a year.
The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.1% or 11.75 points to 10,865.54.
Electricity retailer Meridian Energy, which had a record fall of 8.7% on Wednesday, clawed back about 0.8%. The stock and other major energy generators had plunged after Rio Tinto flagged plans to shut its aluminium smelter, the largest electricity consumer in New Zealand.
Mercury NZ gained 0.9% and Contact Energy climbed 0.8%. (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)