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Australasia, News

Australia shares extend gains; miners shine on metal prices

* ASX benchmark hits record high

* Oil prices buoy energy stocks

* NZ benchmark closes 0.5% down (Updates to close)

Jan 20 (Reuters) – Australian shares extended their record-breaking spree to a fifth session on Monday, mainly driven by mining stocks that gained on strong metal prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index touched a fresh peak of 7,092.50 points before paring some gains to finish at 7,079.50, a new record closing high.

The benchmark, which crossed the 7,000 threshold in one of the sessions last week, had capped a weekly gain of about 2%, aided chiefly by the positive sentiment around the midweek sealing of the Phase 1 Sino-U.S. trade deal.

The heavyweight Metals and Mining index contributed most to the benchmark gains, tacking on 1.4%, as copper futures hovered around an eight-month high and Dalian iron ore futures touched their highest level since Jan.9.

The world’s biggest miner BHP Ltd gained 1.6% to scale a near six-month high, a day ahead of its quarterly production results.

Another diversified global miner, Rio Tinto, closed up 0.9%, while iron ore-focused player Fortescue Metals Group put on about 3.7% to finish at a record close.

Meanwhile, stronger oil prices buoyed energy stocks with the sub-index snapping two sessions of losses to close 0.4% higher.

Oil prices rose to their highest in more than a week after two large crude production bases in Libya began shutting down amid a military blockade, setting the stage for crude flows from the OPEC member to be cut to a trickle.

Beach Energy gained 3.6% and was the top percentage gainer on the energy sub-index.

However, the Financials index edged down, finishing about 0.1% lower with health insurer NIB Holdings Ltd becoming the top percentage loser in the index.

NIB slumped about 13% after it forecasted its full year 2020 underlying profit to fall from its pervious expectations.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed about 0.5% lower at 11,746.95.

Software solutions provider Gentrack Group Ltd was the top percentage loser on the benchmark, slipping 13.6% to an over three-year low, after it forecast “difficult market conditions” that have affected its sales pipeline to a greater degree than expected. (Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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