* Gold stocks hit highest close since Jan. 8
* "Big Four" banks up between 0.6% and 1.2%
* Miners down for fourth straight session
May 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed slightly higher
on Monday, helped by gains in gold and energy stocks as
underlying commodity prices rose, although heavyweight miners
were weighed down by a slump in Asia's iron ore futures.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.2% at 7,045.9,
extending gains into a third session.
"Australian markets are subdued, perhaps with one eye on
China's commodity price displeasure," Jeffrey Halley, a senior
market analyst at OANDA, said in a note.
China's state planner has warned against commodity price
manipulation, sparking a sell-off in Asia's iron ore futures,
and dragging Australian miners to their lowest since
The Australian mining trio of BHP Group, Rio Tinto
and Fortescue Metals Group slipped between 2%
Gold stocks led the gains with a rise of 2.2%. The
sub-index hit its highest close in more than four months, as
bullion prices hovered near a 4-1/2-month high.
Index heavyweights Newcrest Mining and Northern
Star Resources gained 2.7% and 0.9%, respectively.
Energy stocks tracked an uptick in oil prices and
closed 1.1% higher. Woodside Petroleum jumped 1%, while
Santos added 2.3%.
Financial stocks closed higher for a third straight
session, marking their best finish in three months. The "big
four" banks added between 0.6% and 1.2%.
Tech stocks jumped 0.2%, while the healthcare sector
Online retailer Kogan.com was the top gainer on
the benchmark with a near 14% jump, as bargain hunters snapped
up the stock after Friday's plunge.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index
closed down 0.1% at 12,449.0. Synlait Milk fell 1.6%
after it forecast an annual loss.
(Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by