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Australia shares edge up, AMP jumps on plan to trim business risk; NZ also rise

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[BENGALURU] Australian stocks ended slightly up on Thursday, supported by shares in the country's biggest wealth manager, AMP Ltd, rising sharply on its plans to trim exposure to its troubled life insurance business.

The S&P/ASX 200 index tacked on 0.2 per cent, or 13.23 points, to 5,664.6 at the close of trade. The benchmark climbed 0.5 per cent on Wednesday.

Real estate companies GPT Group and Westfield Corp rose 3 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.

The stocks appeared to take their lead from industry data showing the housing market remained sturdy despite a slowdown in price gains.

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AMP Ltd advanced 4 per cent after it said it wanted to strike a second reinsurance deal for its life insurance unit to reduce its financial exposure to the troubled business.

Insurer Suncorp Group Ltd closed nearly one per cent higher after it said it will consider the sale of its A$2 billion (S$2.15 billion) life insurance division.

Among the other big gainers was AGL Energy, which ended 4.4 per cent higher on news it expected electricity prices to climb further, offsetting pain in its gas business.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.8 per cent or 55.36 points to finish the session at 7,121.63, helped by expectations central bank policy will remain stimulatory for a few more years to come.

The country's central bank held the official cash rate steady at 1.75 per cent, and flagged it could remain there for two years or more.

Casino operator SkyCity Entertainment jumped as much as 7 per cent, recording its biggest intraday percentage gain in more than a year, on strong growth in Auckland business during the second quarter.

REUTERS

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