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Australia, NZ: Australia shares hit nine-month highs, NZ climbs back to a record

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares rose to their highest in nine months on Wednesday, helped by solid gains in mining giant BHP Billiton, while New Zealand stocks returned to record territory after recovering from a late April fall.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.6 per cent, or 32.8 points, at 5,375.6 by 0410 GMT. Earlier, it reached 5,425.2, a high last seen in August.

New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 index rose by a similar magnitude to 6,953.9, having earlier hit an all-time high of 6,956.3.

The kiwi benchmark had reached successive record highs in April before taking a steep tumble. It has been slowly recovering since a trough on April 28.

Investors were also encouraged by Wall Street, which posted its best one-day gain in two months.

BHP Billiton climbed 3.6 per cent after chief executive Andrew Mackenzie painted a bullish growth outlook at a conference in Miami.

In a note after his speech, UBS analysts said BHP is well positioned to "positively surprise" from cost savings and productivity. UBS said the benefits of BHP's February corporate restructure had been potentially underestimated by the market.

Also in favour, construction material supplier CSR jumped as much as 8.9 per cent to its highest since August after posting a rise in profits.

The big four banks, however, were mixed with Australian and New Zealand Banking Group slipping 0.8 per cent while Westpac Banking Corp rising 0.5 per cent.

In New Zealand, Metro Performance Glass topped the leader board with a 4 per cent rise, while Orion Health Group put on 2.5 per cent.

Only 12 stocks in the index were in negative territory.

REUTERS