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Australasia, News

Australia shares inch higher as Suez Canal blockage lifts commodities

* Shipping rates rise, tankers diverted due to blockage

* Miners jump nearly 2%, eye biggest gain since March 12

* Tech stocks drop, Afterpay falls nearly 3%

By Aditya Munjuluru

March 29 (Reuters) – Australian shares edged up on Monday, as higher commodity prices lifted miners and energy stocks on worries that global supplies of crude and refined products could be disrupted for weeks as workers try to dislodge a container blocking the Suez Canal.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.1% at 6,830.40 by 0015 GMT. The benchmark closed 0.5% higher on Friday.

Also lifting risk appetite was a report on Monday that showed the country is expecting to log a record A$136 billion ($103.85 billion) from iron ore exports this financial year in signs of a global steelmaking recovery from the pandemic-led downturn.

Copper prices rose in the previous session as markets worried about the cost repercussions for transporting industrial metals following the Suez Canal blockage.

The mining sub-index jumped nearly 2% in its biggest intraday percentage gain in more than two weeks. Rio Tinto and BHP Group, which have significant copper mining operations, rose as much as 2% and 2.3%, respectively.

Energy stocks rose 1.4% as oil prices spiked on worries over Suez Canal. Sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum added nearly 1% while Santos advanced 2.3%.

Sentiment was subdued across Asia with Nikkei futures dropping 0.5% to 29,295 points, while S&P 500 E-minis futures were down 0.4%.

Technology stocks curbed gains in the index, with top percentage losers Megaport dropping 3.4%, followed by buy-now-pay-later giant Afterpay, which slipped 2.8%.

Treasury Wine Estates slumped 3.8% after the company said it would face steep anti-dumping tariffs for its Australian wine exports to China.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.58% to 12,420.3, with Meridian Energy rising 3.5%.

Synlait Milk was the biggest loser, down as much as 4.2% after the dairy firm posted a 76% plunge in first-half profit and flagged headwinds in fiscal 2021.

($1 = 1.3096 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Aditya Munjuluru;Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)


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