Australia shares record best week in 13 months on boost from mining, energy sectors



* Benchmark posts best weekly gain since Feb 2021

* Mining, energy sectors lead gains

* Gold stocks record first weekly drop after six weeks (Updates to close)

By Archishma Iyer

March 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose for a third straight day on Friday to record their best week since February last year, driven by gains in commodity sub-indexes, but investors treaded lightly as they sought more cues on the geopolitical scene.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO rose 0.6% to 7,294.4 points at the close of trade. The benchmark gained more than 3% on the week, recording its best performance in 13 months.

Market players have become more circumspect about economic growth, especially after the U.S. Federal Reserve took a more hawkish stance and forecast seven rate hikes for the year.

Little progress in peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv also kept investor sentiment in check.

"Despite geopolitical tensions and inflationary concerns, the surge in the benchmark can be partly attributed to diminishing concerns around the chances of Russian default after investors received foreign-debt payments," Kalkine Group Chief Executive Officer Kunal Sawhney said.

In Australia, energy stocks .AXEJ led the gains, rising as much as 2.9%, as crude prices rose on renewed fears of a supply crunch due to growing sanctions on Russia.

Index heavyweights such as Woodside Petroleum Ltd WPL.AX and Beach Energy Ltd BPT.AX firmed about 2.5% and 1%, respectively.

Shares in miners .AXMM also rose 1.8% after iron ore prices climbed on easing concerns over China's COVID cases and the country's promise of a new financial stimulus to prop up its economy.

Sector majors such as Rio Tinto Ltd RIO.AX , Fortescue Metals Group FMG.AX and rival BHP Group Ltd BHP.AX gained in the range of 0.7% and 1.7%.

Gold stocks .AXGD were up 0.8%, but posted their first weekly loss after six weeks. Newcrest Mining Ltd NCM.AX rose as much as 0.8% in the day.

Financial stocks .AXFJ recouped their early losses to end higher at 0.4%, with banking major Macquarie Group Ltd MQG.AX gaining about 1.3%

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 rose about 1.5% to 12,175.9 points to finish the session.
Reporting by Archishma Iyer in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva

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