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Australia: Shares rise on financials, merger talks; NZ falls

[BENGALURU] Australian shares inched up to a two-week high on Wednesday as financials rose in line with their US peers, while the real estate sector was bumped up by shopping centre company Westfield Corp after it received a takeover offer from France's Unibail-Rodamco SE.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 10.5 points to 6,024.5 by 0032 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.3 per cent on Tuesday.

Westfield clocked a record gain of 15 per cent after coming out of a trading halt. The stock was the biggest contributor to the Australian benchmark after it said it would accept a US$16 billion takeover offer from Unibail-Rodamco.

The financials index rose about 0.4 per cent, following a rise in Wall Street's financials sector on Tuesday after robust producer price data for November hinted towards firming inflation in the US economy, boosting investor sentiment.

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Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia were among the biggest boosts to the financial index, rising about 0.3 per cent and and 0.4 per cent respectively.

"We've got a strong lead-in from Wall Street, and the financials have been rediscovering their mojo after the announcement of the royal commission a couple of weeks back,"said Ben Le Brun, an analyst at Charles Schwab Australia.

The Australian government in November announced a year long inquiry into a scandal-hit finance sector to scrutinize the conduct of a number of financial institutions. The announcement had thrown a large portion of financial stocks into a tailspin.

"We've also got some news of takeovers which is buoying the market," he added.

Cleanaway Waste Management Ltd was among the top percentage gainers on the benchmark index, rising as much as 12.2 per cent to a near nine-year high as the stock resumed trade after being halted on Monday.

The company had halted trading in its securities in order to complete a capital raising to partially fund its acquisition of rival Tox Free Solutions for A$671 million (S$687.4 million).

Consumer discetionary and energy stocks were the biggest drags on the benchmark index, with gambling machine maker Aristocrat Leisure shedding 1.1 per cent.

The Australian energy index shed about 0.3 per cent after oil prices dropped sharply on profit taking.

New Zealand shares clocked their biggest intraday loss in a week, led by consumer staples and healthcare stocks.

The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5 per cent or 44 points to 8,235.85.

a2 Milk Company Ltd dropped 3.1 per cent to a one-month low, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp shed about 2 per cent.

REUTERS

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