Australia shares rise on mining, energy stocks; NZ hits record high

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* Aussie April unemployment rate rises to 8-month high

* Analysts see RBA June rate cut as distinct possibility

* Huawei blacklist, rising U.S.-China tensions cap gains

* NZ scales record high for second consecutive session (Updates to close)

May 16 (Reuters) – Australian shares rose on Thursday, bolstered by miners and energy stocks as prices of the commodities surged.

Expectations of an interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia as early as June also lifted sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 43.60 points or 0.7% to 6,327.80. The benchmark rose 0.7% on Wednesday.

Australia’s unemployment rate rose to the highest in eight months while full-time jobs fell in April, official data showed. New jobs created beat expectations, however, all of the increase was led by part-time work, as full-time jobs dropped.

“From the RBA’s perspective, unemployment and underemployment are heading in the wrong direction. The increased slack in the labour market will not help progress towards its inflation target,” Catherine Birch, senior economist at ANZ said in a note.

“Coupled with the soft employment component of Tuesday’s NAB survey, a June rate cut must be a distinct possibility,” Birch added.

On the downside, broader sentiment soured after the United States hit Chinese telecom giant Huawei with severe sanctions in the midst of shaky trade negotiations with China, adding to rising tensions.

Boosting the index, miners surged 1.3% to an over four-week high, as Chinese iron ore futures hit a record high on robust demand and tight supply.

BHP Group and Rio Tinto shed mid-session losses to close 0.9% and 1% higher, respectively.

The smaller Fortescue Metals Group soared 3.2%.

Amid the Sino-U.S. tension, safe-haven gold stocks tacked on 1.8%. The biggest gold miner, Newcrest Mining added 2.2%, while a number of smaller miners also notched solid gains.

Energy stocks rose 2.2% amid growing fears of supply disruptions in the Middle East. Origin Energy gained 4% while Woodside Petroleum added 1.6%.

Financial stocks inched lower, dragged by the country’s second-biggest lender Westpac Banking Corp which ended down 3.9% as shares traded ex-dividend.

A robust performance among other lenders almost entirely offset Westpac’s losses. Commonwealth Bank of Australia put on 1.1% while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group gained 1.4%.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5% or 45.41 points to finish the session at a record 10,176.99.

Communications infrastructure services provider Chorus rose 3.1%, while Auckland International Airport gained 2.5%. (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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