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Australia: Shares climb on financials, materials

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares rose to their highest closing level in two weeks with banks and miners pushing the index higher, mirroring solid gains on Wall Street.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 1.1 per cent or 62.40 points to 5,818.1.

The overnight rally in Wall Street was helped by financial stocks which rose after the Federal Reserve ratified plans from US banks to use extra capital for stock buybacks and dividends.

Financials accounted for nearly half the gains on the Australian benchmark with the "Big-Four" banks ending between 1.6 per cent and 2.4 per cent higher.

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BT Investment Management Ltd closed 2.4 per cent higher while Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Ltd advanced 1.4 per cent.

Higher commodity prices helped the materials index end up 2.4 per cent, posting a sixth straight session of gains.

Oil futures climbed more than 1 per cent on Wednesday to their highest in more than a week while China's iron ore rallied more than 3 per cent.

BHP Billiton Ltd and Fortescue Metals Group jumped over 2.5 per cent each.

Gold prices also rose overnight for a second session on a weak dollar following a global cyber-attack and a delay in US healthcare legislation.

Dacian Gold Ltd ended 1.5 percent higher while Northern Star Resources was up 2.5 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.8 per cent, or 60.96 points, to a record closing high of 7,685.45.

The benchmark posted its biggest rise in more than a month.

Healthcare led the gains with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp Ltd closing at an all-time high, after having risen as much as 2.4 per cent intraday.

Restaurant Brands New Zealand Ltd closed 3 per cent higher and was the top gainer on the index while Metro Performance Glass Ltd was the worst performer, ending 0.7 per cent lower.

REUTERS

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