Australian shares climb ahead of GDP data; miners rally

June 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Wednesday ahead of data that is expected to show the country’s economy continued to grow in the first quarter, with strong commodity prices boosting stocks of local mining and energy companies.

The benchmark ASX 200 index rose 0.4% to 7,169.5 by 0004 GMT, after having closed 0.3% lower on Tuesday.

The Australian economy likely expanded by 0.6% in the first quarter, a Reuters poll showed, maintaining a steady pace of recovery from a coronavirus-induced downturn last year.

Investors also took heart from a decline in locally-transmitted COVID-19 infections in Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria.

Mining stocks, the biggest constituent on the benchmark, rose for a fifth straight day, up 1.7%, as iron ore surged on hopes of output curbs easing in steel hub Tangshan.

Heavyweights Rio Tinto, BHP Group and Fortescue Metals gained between 3% and 5%.

Energy stocks also rose 2.7% as oil prices hit their highest since March.

Natural gas majors Woodside Petroleum and Santos Ltd added 2.6% and 3.9%, respectively.

The financial index climbed 0.3%, with the “big four” banks rising 0.2% to 0.4%

However, the gold index shed 1.8%, as the yellow metal’s prices slipped from a five-month peak hit in the previous session.

Gold miners Evolution Mining and Resolute Mining shed about 2.4% and 2.5%, respectively.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index remained largely unchanged at 12,458.52.

The top percentage loser on the bourse was Tourism Holdings Ltd, down about 2.3%.

In other regions, Japan’s Nikkei was down 0.3% at 28,718.14, while the S&P 500 E-minis futures were down 2.5 points, or 0.06%. (Reporting by Yamini C S in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)