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Australia shares finish near 6-month high; NZ slips

[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed near a six-month high on Wednesday, as a jump in oil prices and iron ore futures boosted energy and materials stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.49 per cent or 28.783 points at 5,937.800, its highest close since May 2.

Oil prices ticked up on Wednesday as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries improved compliance of its pledged supply cuts and Russia extended its support to the deal.

The Australian energy index closed up 1.1 per cent to its highest in more than two years, with Beach Energy Ltd and Whitehaven Coal Ltd accounting for most of the gains.

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Materials were also among the top gainers as Dalian iron ore futures climbed after five consecutive sessions of declines.

BHP Billiton Ltd rose to a two-week high and led most of the gains on the benchmark index.

The Australian Financial index rose 0.4 per cent with Westpac Banking Corp leading the gains.

Australia's No 2 lender defended its bank bill trading in court on Wednesday, saying it was crucial to funding the group and managing large amounts of cash it held following the global financial crisis.

Bucking the trend, Myer Holdings Ltd, Australia's biggest department store chain, fell to a five-week low after it cut its growth targets and said sales had slipped in the first quarter in the face of stiff competition.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 1.1 per cent or 92.530 points to finish the session at 8,053.810 in what was the biggest drop for the index since March.

a2 Milk Company Ltd fell 8.2 per cent and was the biggest drag on the index.

REUTERS

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