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Australia shares higher on resources boost; NZ flat

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose over 1 per cent on Thursday, shrugging off higher than expected US inflation data and boosted by gains in top resources stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 1.2 per cent, or 67.8 points, to 5,909. The benchmark fell 0.3 per cent on Wednesday.

Wall Street surged on Wednesday as investors shrugged off stronger-than-expected inflation data and snapped up shares of Facebook, Amazon.com and Apple.

Among Australian equities, material stocks led the gains, supported by firm commodity prices, with heavyweights BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto closing 4.6 per cent and 4.1 per cent higher, respectively. Both stocks ended higher for a fourth straight session.

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Iron ore futures in China climbed to their strongest in three weeks, while London copper rose for a fourth day to the highest in 10 days.

Sentiment was also supported by data showing the country's streak of employment gains reached the longest on record in January, while unemployment fell a tick and female participation in the workforce climbed to an all-time high.

In the financial sector, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd and National Australia Bank Ltd rose between 1.5 per cent and 1.6 per cent.

Origin Energy Ltd more than tripled its half-year underlying profit on the back of soaring energy prices, sending its shares up 6.9 per cent.

Other energy stocks also gained as prices rose after Saudi Arabia's energy minister said major oil producers would prefer tighter markets to early exits from cuts.

Meanwhile, shares of South32 Ltd slid 5.4 per cent to its weakest close since Dec 29. The slow pace of a previously announced US$750 million share buyback, as well as rising costs, weighed on investors' minds, analysts said.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed marginally higher, rising 0.06 per cent or 4.53 points to settle at 8,063.33.

Losses in material and utility stocks were offset by gains in healthcare and industrial stocks.

Fletcher Building Ltd lost 1.3 per cent and energy generator and retailer Contact Energy Ltd fell 0.9 per cent.

Medical device maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd ended 0.8 per cent higher.

REUTERS

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