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[SYDNEY] Australian shares rose for a second session on Thursday as investors wagered the European Central Bank will unveil a stimulus package later in the day, while a rebound in oil and copper prices shored up the resources sector.
A shock interest rate cut in Canada, which stoked speculation that the Reserve Bank of Australia may cut interest rates later in 2015 underpinned a sunny mood, while investors also cheered well-received production reports from mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 33.9 points or 0.6 per cent to 5427.3 by 0143 GMT. "Expectations are that they're going to act," said Quay Securities head of trading Tristan K'Nell, referring to the European Central Bank. "It's a bit of a positive sentiment after we had a lot of uncertainty to start the year."
The ECB was poised to announce later on Thursday a plan to print money to buy 50 billion euros in bonds per month from March, in a move seen as likely to inject momentum into the global economy.
BHP rose 3 per cent and Rio Tinto added 2.3 per cent, rebounding after months of declines amid slumping iron ore prices. Iron ore miner Arrium leapt 17 per cent as investors took advantage of its sluggish share price to increase their stakes.
Among energy players, Woodside Petroleum gained 4 per cent, Santos added 2.3 per cent and Origin Energy rose 2.4 per cent after oil price gained 2 per cent overnight.
Banks also firmed, with Westpac Banking Corp up 1.3 per cent while National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group both rising 0.8 per cent.
Recruiter Skilled Group slipped 4 per cent after it rejected a takeover offer from rival Programmed. Packaging firm Amcor dropped 4 per cent after its CEO retired.
New Zealand shares were in record territory with the benchmark NZX-50 index hitting a lifetime high in early trading before trimming its gains to be up 0.1 per cent at 5,680.88.
Market bellwether Fletcher Building was 0.5 per cent lower after the previous session's 5 per cent gain.
A sharp fall in the exchange rate helped exporter stocks or those with significant offshore interests like Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, up 1.4 per cent.
The country's biggest listed retailer The Warehouse rose 5.2 per cent as substantial shareholder James Pascoe Ltd, which operates jewellery shops and a rival department store chain, said it upped its stake to 7.4 per cent from 6.3 percent.