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Australia, NZ: Stocks close higher on Wednesday

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended marginally higher on Wednesday as the economy expanded at its fastest annual pace in four years last quarter on the back of surging exports.

Growth in the April-June quarter was also bolstered by a pre-election spurt in government spending combined with modest gains in household spending and home building.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.2 per cent higher, or 10.6 points, at 5,424.2. The benchmark ended 0.3 per cent lower on Tuesday.

Consumer-focused stocks and industrials led the gainers, with retailer Wesfarmers Ltd rising 1.1 per cent, while rail freight operator Aurizon Holdings added 1.8 per cent.

Northern Star Resources and Evolution Mining rose as the precious metal hit a fresh two-and-a-half week high.

Basic materials were flat, with miners Rio Tinto Ltd and BHP Billiton Ltd weighing the sector down, losing 0.8 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively.

Financials were slightly higher, led by Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which were up 1.6 per cent and 1.1 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose about 1 per cent, or 67.6 points, to 7,571.11, a record closing high.

Consumer stocks and utilities rose, with dairy products maker A2 Milk Co Ltd and gaming business Skycity Entertainment Group up 5 per cent and 3.7 per cent, respectively, the biggest gainers on the main index.

Financials, the biggest constituent on the index, lost 0.4 per cent as Australia and New Zealand Banking Group dragged the sector down, losing 1.4 per cent.

REUTERS