Australian shares rise on cenbank's cautious stance, BHP bumper results

(Updates to close)

By Himanshi Akhand

Aug 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended higher on Tuesday, as upbeat earnings and record dividend from global miner BHP Group buoyed the mining sub-index, while Reserve Bank of Australia's cautious rate hike stance also boosted sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO rose 0.6% to 7,105.40, its highest closing level since June 8. The benchmark gained 0.5% on Monday.

Minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) August policy meeting showed the central bank still sees a need for more rises in interest rates to prevent high inflation becoming baked into the expectations, but is "not on a pre-set path" and aims to keep the economy on an even keel.

"The minutes suggest that the size and timing of future rate hikes will be guided by data and the central bank's assessment of the outlook for inflation and labour market," said Kunal Sawhney, chief executive officer, Kalkine Group.

Australian equities will most probably be guided by corporate earnings and developments on the Wall Street going forward, but any positive rate hike surprise by the RBA in September may boost the benchmark index, he added.

On the domestic bourse, BHP Group Ltd BHP.AX soared 4.1% after reporting bumper annual profits and declaring a record dividend. BHP's earnings were boosted by strong commodity prices and higher sales from its Western Australia iron ore operations.

This pushed mining stocks .AXMM up 1.7% to their highest closing level since June 28.

Heavyweight financial stocks .AXFJ also firmed 0.4%, while healthcare stocks .AXHJ rose 1%.

Domestic energy stocks .AXEJ slumped 1% after oil prices extended losses on global recession fears. Beach Energy BPT.AX fell 3.3% to the bottom of the sub-index a day after reported lower-than-expected annual profit.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 rose 0.5% to 11,847.15.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is expected to deliver its fourth straight half-point rate hike on Wednesday.

Reporting by Himanshi Akhand in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich

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