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Australia: Shares hit nine month top; NZ index nears 7000 points

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[MELBOURNE] Australian shares ended a tad firmer, having come nine-month highs struck earlier in the session as investors bought stocks in big banks and health care firms investors.

With US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen due to speak later in the global day, some caution set in going into the weekend in case she gave any clue to when US interest rates will rise.

The S&P/ASX 200 index hit 5,427.70 at midday, its highest level since August, before closing at 5405.90. The benchmark rose 0.3 per cent on Thursday.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index struck a record at 6996.2, its first record high in more than a week and edging ever closer to the 7,000 mark. It climbed 0.6 per cent or 44.7 points to finish the session at 6992.6.