MELBOURNE – Miners carried Australian stocks to a firmer finish Monday, buoyed by gains in commodity prices on the back of manufacturing data from China.
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A modest gain for the local market took back some of Friday's steep fall and comes as investors prepare for the start of corporate earnings season, but wasn't strong enough for the benchmark index to notch up a gain for the month.
Fading in the final hours of trading, the S&P/ASX 200 gained 17.8 points, or 0.3%, to settle at 5720.6. That left the index down for a third straight month, albeit with a loss of less than 1 point.
The materials sector was the primary driver Monday, aided by gains in energy stocks as oil prices added to last week's gains, while healthcare, property and telecommunications stocks lost ground.
Chinese iron-ore futures hit their best levels in about four months, rallying after an official gauge of Chinese manufacturing activity showed a sharper-than-expected decline but remained in expansionary territory. Copper also strengthened, rising back toward its highest prices in two years. China is Australia's biggest export market and a massive consumer of commodities including iron ore.
Diversified miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto rose 2.1% and 2.4%, respectively, and iron-ore producer jumped 5.9%. Copper miner Oz Minerals climbed 3.4%.
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Among energy stocks, Woodside Petroleum was 1.1% higher, Oil Search rose 0.8% and Santos picked up 0.6%. Origin Energy gained 0.9% following the release of fourth-quarter production and sales revenue figures.
The major banks were weaker, led by a 0.3% decline by Westpac Banking, although investment bank and asset manager Macquarie was 0.9% stronger as it pared some of Friday's 2.7% loss.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 31, 2017 03:21 ET (07:21 GMT)