Australian shares close higher, lifted by financials; NZ drops


* Financials have risen four of the last five sessions

* Rio Tinto climbs ahead of its annual results (Updates to close)

Feb 27 (Reuters) – Australian shares ended Wednesday higher on strength in financial stocks, though some investors stayed cautious while waiting for the United State-North Korea summit in Hanoi and for details of what a U.S.-China trade agreement might contain.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 percent to close at 6,150.30. On Tuesday, the benchmark fell 0.9 percent.

Asian markets eked out small gains ahead of meetings between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which might break a stalemate over the North’s nuclear weapons and end more than 70 years of hostility.

Australian financial stocks were the biggest boosts to the index, with the country’s Big Four banks climbing 0.5 percent to 0.9 percent. The sub-index has gained in four out of the last five sessions.

Mining stocks also lent support to the benchmark, with the metals and mining subindex closing 0.2 percent higher.

Heavyweight Rio Tinto gained 0.6 percent ahead of its 2018 earnings, reported after Wednesday’s close of trading. The miner announced higher earnings for the year.

BHP Group, the largest stock on the ASX 200, moved up 0.4 percent.

The world’s largest miners on Tuesday said they would sponsor an independent review to set global standards for tailings dam design and maintenance following last month’s deadly disaster at a Brazilian facility controlled by Vale SA .

The accident had pushed up iron ore prices and prompted a rally in Australian mining stocks.

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Telecommunications provider Vocus Group was the biggest gainer on the ASX 200 for the day after saying it intended to shift away from the local NBN broadband services, and focus on rolling out 5G services to consumers.

New Zealand shares ended lower, weighted down by utilities and consumer stocks. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4 percent or 41.66 points to finish at 9,281.47.

Electricity retailer Contact Energy closed 2.3 percent lower, while A2 Milk Co Ltd shed 0.3 percent. (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)



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