Australia Stocks Advance for Seventh Session in a Row

By Robb M. Stewart Features Dow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--A seventh straight session of gains for Australian shares took the market to a two-year closing high Monday, as the major banks led broad gains ahead of earnings season.

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Australia & New Zealand Banking's first-half numbers, due before the market opens Tuesday, will get the ball rolling, with results from the other big lenders expected over the coming days.

Although there are still worries among investors over capital needs and the housing market in Australia, the banks are widely expected to have benefited from relatively low numbers of soured loans and gains in home-loan rates.

Traders had expected a cautious start to the week after the market's recent gains and ahead of central bank policy meetings in Australia and the U.S., as well as the coming second round of the French presidential election.

After a late surge, the S&P/ASX 200 finished 32.3 points, or 0.6%, higher at 5956.4--its highest close since April 2015.

Westpac Banking, which is set to report first-half numbers next week, rose 0.7% and ANZ gained 0.6%, while National Australia Bank added 0.3% and Commonwealth Bank of Australia lagged behind with a gain of almost 0.1%.

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Investment bank and asset manager Macquarie, set to release its full-year results at the end of the week, climbed 1.2%.

"Investors are anticipating solid results supported by low bad debt provisions and cost control. Yield investors continue to see banks as a relatively stable income proposition in the near term," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

The consumer sector, industrials and utilities each managed solid gains for the day. However, energy stocks struggled as crude futures eased in Asian trading on concerns over whether output cuts by producers in the Middle East and Russia would be enough to counter the rise in oil being pumped in the U.S.

Woodside Petroleum picked up 0.2% but Oil Search fell 0.6% and Santos lost 0.9%.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 01, 2017 03:21 ET (07:21 GMT)