Australia shares firmer, led by financial sector; NZ slips

* IOOF jumps on strong results

* ANZ rises as investors expect lender to be less conservative

* Blackmores flags China concerns, sends a2 Milk, Bellamy's lower

By Nikhil Nainan

Feb 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Tuesday, led by financials sector gains, which outweighed declines in other segments of the market as patchy company results and guidance raised concerns about future growth.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 percent to 6,106.8 by 0022 GMT. The benchmark closed 0.4 percent higher on Monday.

Financial stocks, led by the country's "Big Four" banks, were the biggest boosts to the index, up between 0.7 percent to 1.4 percent. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rose as much as 1.2 percent to its highest level in nearly two weeks.

The country's third largest bank reported slower mortgage book growth than the overall sector on Tuesday, but the market took comments by the lender's chief that it may have been "overly conservative" in its lending approach as a positive.

"I think investors are looking at that and saying that the bank is going to have increased appetite for residential and investor lending," said David Ellis, a banking analyst at Morningstar.

"That should partially assist in getting lending growth back up to system levels."

IOOF Holdings was the second biggest percentage gainer on the benchmark, up 14.5 percent to a more than two-month high.

The wealth manager posted a 5 percent rise in underlying first-half profit as it benefited from the part purchase of ANZ's wealth unit.

Elsewhere, vitamin maker Blackmores Ltd was the biggest loser, dropping nearly 35 percent after it flagged weak sales from China, its key market.

Its peer Bellamy's Australia, which focuses on baby food, dropped 4.6 percent.

Hearing implant maker Cochlear Ltd fell about 10 percent to a more than one-month low, as it flagged slowing growth across developed markets in the 2019 financial year.

"I think expectations were because of the stronger U.S. dollar, Cochlear should have been doing better. But they are talking about slowing growth in the U.S. and Europe as well, which will have taken the market a little bit by surprise," said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut

Oil Search fell about 2 percent after its annual profits missed estimates.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.2 percent, or 15.56 points, to 9,229.88.

a2 Milk Company Ltd fell as much as 6.5 percent before paring some losses. For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)

2019-02-19 03:02:10

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