Australia shares rise on energy boost; U.S. inflation data in focus

May 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares inched higher on Monday, helped by a rise in energy stocks, while investors looked to U.S. inflation data due later this week that could determine the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy stance.

The S&P/ASX 200 index flitted between positive and negative territories before trading 0.4% higher at 7,058.9 by 0115 GMT. The benchmark ended up 0.2% on Friday.

The energy index rose 0.5%, boosted by higher crude prices. Whitehaven Coal Ltd, up 2.5%, and fuel refiner Ampol Ltd were the top gainers on the subindex.

Eyeing core inflation data in the United States, investors were worried that a high reading could revive talks of an early tapering in the Fed’s bond-buying programme.

Among other stocks and sectors, the IT index rose 0.2%, led by Codan Ltd, up 2.8%, and followed by Nuix Ltd, gaining 2.6%.

The metals and mining index fell 0.1% on slumping iron ore prices after top steel producer China stepped up efforts to cool a blistering demand-driven rally in raw material prices.

The mining trio — BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals — fell between 0.1% and 0.9%.

Financial stocks dipped 0.1%, led lower by AMP Ltd , down 3.6%. Macquarie Group Ltd lost 2.3%.

However, buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) firm Zip Co was the biggest gainer on the benchmark after announcing expansion to Europe and Middle East by acquiring two companies there for about A$160 million ($123.76 million).

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4% to 12,415.7.

Synlait Milk Ltd was the biggest loser on the index after the dairy producer forecast annual loss due to COVID-19 disruption to its key “daigou” supply channel to China. (Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)