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Australia, New Zealand: Shares touch firmer as investors countdown to Brexit vote


[SYDNEY] Australian shares inched higher on Thursday as the latest opinion polls suggested Britain would stay in the European Union, though the vote was so close it kept all but the bravest investors on the sidelines.

The S&P/ASX 200 index firmed 0.2 per cent or 11.2 points to 5,282.2 by 0400 GMT. The market has been in limbo for much of the week in the countdown to the UK poll, which is due to close at 2100 GMT.

The latest YouGov opinion poll for The Times newspaper showed the "In" camp led "Out" by 51 per cent to 49 per cent, while a ComRes poll put the "In" lead at 48 per cent to 42 per cent.

Analysts fear turmoil in global markets should the country actually vote to leave, with risk assets such as stocks and the local dollar likely to take a big hit.

Helping miners was a US$1 a tonne jump in iron ore prices and the basic materials sector was the biggest gainer of the day with an increase of 1.2 per cent.

Fortescue Metals put on 5.4 per cent to reach its highest in two months, and is up around 75 per cent for the year so far.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.7 per cent or 46 points at 6,827.61, again as fears Britain might leave the EU ebbed slightly ahead of the referendum.

The biggest gainers were Air New Zealand up 1.9 per cent and Spark up 1.5 per cent. Volumes, however, were very light.

The biggest losers were Nuplex which shed 1.9 after the company said Allnex Belgium SA has advised Nuplex that the review process for receiving anti-trust clearance in the European Union is taking longer than expected. Allnex made a US$1.05 billion offer for Nuplex earlier this year.

Shareholders are due to vote on the scheme of arrangement at a special meeting in Auckland on July 7.