[SYDNEY] Australian shares rebounded from two-month lows on Wednesday, underpinned by a rally in energy and natural resources shares even as the market fretted over the currency crisis in Russia and tumbling oil prices.
The S&P/ASX 200 index showed a rare gain of half a per cent to 5,177.8 by 01:19 GMT, following six sessions of losses.
Gains were broad-based with the energy sector the clear outperformer, showing a gain of 3 per cent. "It's a bit perplexing given the overnight action in oil prices," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets. He said the US Federal Reserve policy meeting due later in the session was a possible reason for the move. "There may be some expectations of a short-circuiting of the pressure on commodity prices." Whitehaven Coal leapt 5.2 per cent to A$1.20, from 6-year lows touched recently, after the company said its first train with coal would leave the Maules Creek mine three months ahead of the original schedule.
Mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto jumped more than 1 per cent each.
Also underpinning Australian shares was key chart support around 5,150, a level tested three times in as many sessions this week. McCarthy cited a series of major supports between 5,080 and 4,970. "We will need to see real pressure (to break these levels) and as we head into year-end, the risk is shifting to the upside," he said.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX50 index was fractionally firmer, up 2.9 points to 5,498.64, supported by solid demand for telecommunications retailer Spark.
Spark, the market's second biggest stock, was up 1.3 per cent at NZ$3.10, with talk that the company will reaffirm on Thursday its investment in a new submarine cable between New Zealand and Australia.
Other leading stocks were trading steadily, although the biggest company Fletcher Building was at NZ$7.97, in sight of the 19-month low touched the previous session.
Small-cap stocks were positive, with payments technology company Smartpay up 13.9 per cent to NZ$0.20, albeit on slight volumes, after its Australian taxi payments company signed its first customer.
Travel services management company Serko was up 4.8 per cent to NZ$1.10, a three-month high, after concluding a partnership with Expedia.