November 26, 2019 / 1:25 AM / 10 days ago

Westpac, oil prices drive Australian stocks higher; NZ up

* Westpac up after CEO steps down due to money-laundering scandal

* Caltex Australia surges 13% on $5.84 bln takeover offer

* Bank of Queensland drops 9% to near 7-year low

By Niyati Shetty

Nov 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares clocked broad gains on Monday as Sino-U.S. trade deal optimism boosted market sentiment, while Westpac Banking Corp snapped four sessions of declines after the scandal-hit lender’s chief executive resigned.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.8%, or 52.50 points, to 6,783.90 by 1243 GMT, after adding 0.3% on Monday.

Westpac said its chief executive will step down and its chairman will bring forward his retirement as a money-laundering scandal rocked the country’s second-largest retail bank. The leadership changes sent its shares up as much as 2.1%.

“They will be up for more fines and issues but at the end of the day it will pass just like many of the other issues from the Royal Commission,” said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking, referring to a public inquiry that found widespread misconduct in the financial sector.

Westpac shares slumped 8% over the previous four trading days since the financial regulator announced its lawsuit, wiping A$7.5 billion off the bank’s market value.

The financial sub-index advanced with No. 1 lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank Ltd gaining 0.5% and 0.7%, respectively.

Bank of Queensland Ltd, however, fell 9.1% to a near seven-year low and was the worst performer on the benchmark ASX index, after announcing a A$250 million discounted placement on Monday.

Meanwhile, Wall Street stocks hit new highs overnight on renewed hopes that the United States and China would reach a “phase one” trade pact to end their bruising tariff war before the end of the year.

Rising oil prices lifted the energy sub-index 2.3%, with heavyweights Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Oil Search Ltd rising 1.5% and 1.4%, respectively.

Caltex Australia surged 12.7% to a 15-month high, after announcing a A$8.61 billion ($5.84 billion) revised indicative takeover offer from Canadian convenience store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.

BHP Group Ltd was marginally higher, a day after the world’s biggest miner said it would pay $21.9 million to become the top shareholder in Ecuador-focused SolGold Plc .

Rio Tinto Ltd rose 0.7%, while Fortescue Metals Group Ltd added as much as 2.2% to its highest since July 2008, as demand concerns fuelled a rise in iron ore prices.

Export-oriented healthcare stocks gained 1.3% to a record high, with local shares of U.S.-based Resmed Inc advancing 1.7% and drugmaker CSL Ltd rising 1.6%.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index added 0.6%, or 62.24 points, to 11,015.91.

Fuel distributor Z Energy Ltd and utilities firm Meridian Energy Ltd were among the top performers on the index, rising 3.1% and 2.9%, respectively.

$1 = 1.4736 Australian dollars Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes

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