* Financials rise, with “Big Four” banks leading gains
* Suncorp reports claims for damages from flooding on East Coast
* Weak bullion prices hurt gold stocks
March 31 (Reuters) – Australian shares jumped slightly more than 1% on Wednesday, driven by heavyweight financials and mining stocks, and as traders locked in positions to rebalance at the end of the month.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 1.06% at 6,738.4 points, as at 2330 GMT. The benchmark was on track to gain 2.2% for the month.
“I think this movement is mostly institutional investors who make trades on a monthly basis locking in the performance that they have had over the month by reversing their previous actions,” Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets said.
“The material sector that had a good run but then recently came under pressure is doing well, whereas some stocks such as utility and healthcare, which had good moves recently are the under-performers today.”
Nikkei futures were down 0.15% and S&P 500 E-minis futures edged up 0.06%. The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes elevated to 1.71%.
The energy sub-index rose 1.6%, with independent coal miner Whitehaven Coal Ltd and gas explorer Santos advancing 2.3% and 2.13â€‹%, respectively.
Mining stocks gained 1.6%, with global miners BHP and Rio Tinto advancing 3% and 2.4% respectively.
Financial stocks climbed 1.1%, with the so-called “Big Four” banks rising between 1% and 1.5%.
Suncorp Group Ltd rose 1% in early trade after the insurer said it had received 7,600 claims for damages from severe flooding along Australia’s east coast, and expects the number will rise in coming days.
Bucking the trend, gold stocks dipped alongside weak bullion prices, with heavyweight Newcrest Mining losing nearly 1%.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2% to 12,446.76, with cancer diagnostics firm Pacific Edge Ltd gaining the most on the benchmark.
(Reporting by Vasudha Kaukuntla and Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)