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Australia rises for a fourth day; NZ goes for a fifth

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged up on Thursday although Wall Street took a breather from scaling record highs ahead of quarterly US economic data due out later in the day.

Investors are waiting for a range of indicators including the third estimate of US third-quarter gross domestic product, personal income, and spending to gauge the strength of the economy.

"The GDP data definitely could be a catalyst that drives us (Australia) - people are looking forward to the GDP number and that hopefully that will be the thing that pushes the Dow above 20,000," said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.

US stocks edged down and the dollar eased from 14-year highs on Wednesday, giving back some of the gains chalked up since Donald Trump's election to president as investors took profits.

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The S&P/ASX 200 index entered its fourth straight day of gains, up 0.38 per cent, or 21.12 points, at 5,634.47 at 0144 GMT, after having seen substantial gains this week.

Financial stocks, which have been beneficiaries of the rally sparked by Donald Trump's election as US President, led the gains with the benchmark financial index up for a fifth straight, hovering around over 16-month highs.

The "Big Four" banks were higher in the range of 0.2 per cent to 0.6 per cent.

Consumer stocks and industrials also gained with retailers Woolworths and Wesfarmers rising over 1 per cent each.

Sentiment was also buoyed by iron ore recovering from its 5-day slide, ending higher on Wednesday and copper holding steady on the London Metal Exchange.

Fortescue Metals, which has had a phenomenal run this year, gained as much as 1.93 per cent while Rio Tinto rose 0.7 per cent.

However, BHP Billiton, which has significant oil exposure, shed as much as 1.35 per cent as oil prices fell on Wednesday on news of rising crude inventories in the United States and Libya expecting to boost production.

Fuel supplier Caltex Australia and oil producer Santos ltd shed 1.9 per cent and 1.64 per cent respectively.

The Origin Energy utility, which has natural gas interests, fell 0.78 per cent for a third straight day of losses, dragging the sector down.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index entered its fifth straight session of gains as it rose 0.39 per cent, or 26.8 points, to 6,829.04.

The gains were led by financials and healthcare sectors with Australia and New Zealand Banking gaining over 1 per cent for the seventh straight day, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare climbed 2.4 per cent.

REUTERS

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