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Australia, NZ: Australia shares rise for third day, NZ hits record

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares climbed 0.8 per cent on Thursday as gains in commodity prices lifted the mining sector, while upbeat US jobs data gave a fillip to risk sentiment generally.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 40 points to 5061.5, adding to Wednesday's 2 per cent rally and its highest in almost two months.

A break of the February peak of 5,073 would be bullish technically and could open the way for a rise toward 5,300.

The gains were led by resource stocks after iron ore climbed above US$51 a tonne to levels last seen in October. The ASX 300 Metals & Mining Index rose 2.4 per cent to its highest since mid-November.

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BHP Billiton Ltd put on 3.2 per cent, aided further by news it and Vale SA had reached a deal with Brazil to cover the costs of a deadly dam spill in November.

The better mood in markets globally helped the banks, which were still basking in the glow of surprisingly strong economic growth figures out on Wednesday.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group led the way with a rise of 2.5 per cent, bringing its gains since Tuesday to more than 7 per cent.

That was the largest two-day rise since late 2011 and reflected in part how short speculators had become on banking stocks.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index hit a record high, with gains across consumer, telecoms and banking stocks. The index added 0.66 per cent, or 41.68 points, to 6,354.75.

The biggest gainers included Fletcher Building which rose almost 3 per cent, while Spark added 1.8 per cent and Meridian Energy 1.8 per cent.

REUTERS

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