Australia Stocks Rise for Third Straight Session

By Robb M. Stewart Features Dow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--Australian shares ended off session highs ahead of a public holiday, losing their initial steam as investors position in the wake of the first round of the French presidential election and after President Donald Trump suggested he would push ahead with a keenly awaited tax-reform plan.

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Rising for a third straight session, the S&P/ASX 200 finished Monday up 17.7 points, or 0.3%, at 5871.8 as the major banks continued to support fairly broad gains. Still, the market had climbed as much as 0.7% in the first hour of trading, on news centrist Emmanuel Macron, who is favored in polling, is set to face far-right euro-skeptic Marine Le Pen in the runoff of the French presidential election after both led the first round of voting.

The four biggest banks collectively added about 10 points to the day's advance as they continue to recover from weakness earlier in the month. Energy stocks also notched gains after oil futures rebounded in Asian trading after sliding 7% last week.

Australian markets will be closed Tuesday for Anzac Day, commemorating the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli during World War I.

National Australia Bank gained 0.9%, Westpac Banking rose 0.8%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia was 0.7% higher and Australia & New Zealand Banking picked up 0.5%.

Woodside Petroleum and Santos were both 0.8% stronger, and Oil Search gained 0.7%.

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Cleaning and catering firm Spotless Group slipped 0.5% after it recommended shareholders reject a takeover offer from engineering contractor Downer EDI that values it at about 1.3 billion Australian dollars (US$982 million).

Among materials stocks, Fortescue Metals Group lost 2.6%, Rio Tinto dropped 0.7% and BHP Billiton fell 0.4%. Chinese iron-ore futures were little changed on Monday, after rebounding sharply at the end of last week. The three miners are among the world's biggest exporters of the steel-making ingredient.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 24, 2017 02:51 ET (06:51 GMT)