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Australasia, News

Australia shares buoyed by material, energy stocks; NZ down

* Aussie stocks gain for fifth straight session

* BHP, Rio hover near six-month highs

* Oil prices buoy energy stocks

By Shreya Mariam Job

Jan 20 (Reuters) – Australian shares hit a new record high on Monday driven by material and energy stocks and supported by strong commodity prices, while investors retained their optimism from the breach of a major resistance level last week.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3%, or 23.50 points, to 7087.60 by 0051 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.3% on Friday.

The benchmark crossed the 7,000 threshold and hit record levels almost every single day last week with the index scaling a new record level on Monday.

While there is a slight pull back in the market, the momentum remains strong and that has sparked a positive sentiment among investors, Ashley Glover, head of sales trading APAC & Canada at CMC Markets said.

Material stocks contributed to most of the gains to the benchmark with copper prices hovering near eight month highs on Friday.

Shares of global miner BHP Group rose as much as 1.7% to their near six-month high, a day ahead of the company’s quarterly production results.

Rival Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Ltd also hit an over six-month high. The miner had posted a 3% drop in iron ore shipments in 2019 but forecast higher iron ore shipments in 2020 on Friday.

Meanwhile, stronger oil prices buoyed energy stocks which were set to snap two sessions of losses rising about 0.5%.

Brent crude prices rose over 1.7% after shutdowns of oil fields in Libya.

Shares of Woodside Petroleum rose 0.5%, while those of Beach Energy gained 2.7%.

Elsewhere, Australian oil minnow FAR Ltd said it had taken the final investment decision and got loan approvals to develop its interest in the Sangomar project sending its shares up as much as 4.7%.

Meanwhile, financial stocks edged higher with losses among insurance stocks limiting gains.

The rampant bushfires in Australia have weighed on insurers with Suncorp Group and Insurance Australia Group receiving claims of nearly A$400 million each.

Shares of the two companies declined 0.6% and 0.9%, respectively.

Separately, shares of Lynas Corp fell 1.4% following the company’s statement after market hours on Friday that three individuals had filed a case in Malaysia challenging the local government’s decision to renew the rare earths miner’s operating licence last year.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.2%, or 26.78 points, to 11,773.43.

Shares of Gentrack Group hit an over three-year low, while Synlait Milk dipped 0.8%. (Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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