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Australia: Shares extend gains, NZ scales new peak


[SYDNEY] Australian shares rose for a second session on Wednesday as demand for bank stocks remained firm, while upbeat results sent CSR Ltd to the top of the leader board with double-digit gains.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 0.92 per cent, or 48.38 points, to 5,287.60 by 0213 GMT, adding to Tuesday's 1.4 per cent rise.

The "Big Four" banks were all in positive territory led by a 1.1 per cent rise in Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp. The sector is still in favour a day after Australia's central bank diclosed its explicit easing bias.

Biggest gainer CSR jumped as much as 14.4 per cent after reporting a substantial lift in half-year net profit. The construction material supplier also declared a 35 per cent increase in its interim dividend.

Retail sales data showing an expected 0.4 per cent rise in September and an increase of 0.6 per cent in the third quarter was met with little reaction. "Today's data is unlikely to sway the RBA (reserve bank) in either direction in terms of interest rates," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP. "However, with retail sales growth remaining relatively subdued and...surveys pointing to a possible pull back in business conditions last month, we remain of the view that another RBA rate cut is likely in the months ahead." For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index hit a fresh high of 6,061.83, scaling a second successive peak this week. The index is up nearly 9 per cent this year, in sharp contrast to a 2.5 percent fall for Australia's benchmark.

Shares rallied on hopes of an interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand as early as December after disappointing third-quarter jobs data and another decline in global dairy prices.

The dairy sector generates more than 7 per cent of New Zealand's gross domestic product.

Communications service provider Spark New Zealand was the among the top losers on the index, down about 2 per cent, after Morningstar downgraded the stock to "reduce" from "hold." Air New Zealand fell 1.4 per cent on a rally in oil prices, which tends to push up jet fuel costs.