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Australia: Shares rise on upbeat US outlook, domestic data

[SYDNEY] Australian shares are poised for a third straight session of gains on Thursday, on fresh signs of resilience in the US economy and helped by better-than-expected trade deficit and retail sales data at home.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7 per cent, or 38.7 points to 5,360.5 by 0120 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.8 per cent on Wednesday, defying a commodities rout and weak economic data. "I am not sure we'll see the Christmas rally that some people are expecting though, a lot still depends on commodity prices," said Leeane Jones, equities analyst at Bell Direct. "If we see more pressure on commodities and oil it may put the market under pressure," she added.

Retail sales in Australia rose 0.4 per cent in October, far outpacing a Reuters consensus of flat growth. The trade deficit came in at A$1.3 billion in October, smaller than the A$1.9 billion deficit forecast by economists.

In the United States, the Dow and S&P scored record highs overnight after private payrolls and services sector data underscored the resilience of the world's top economy.

Financials, resources and consumer staples pulled the index higher while the energy sector, led by Santos Ltd, was the only sector in the red.

Santos fell 10.5 per cent to near 10-year lows after it scrapped plans to raise 1 billion euros and said it would focus instead on cutting costs.

New Zealand's benchmark NZ50 index inched up 12.9 points or 0.21 per cent to a one-week high of 5,516.05 in early trade.

Commodity-related shares led gains. Oceanagold was up 4.2 per cent at NZ$2.45, while New Zealand Oil and Gas rose 3.1 per cent to NZ$0.65, extending its recovery from NZ$0.590 hit earlier in the week, its lowest in more than three years.

Freightways rose 1 per cent to hit a lifetime high of NZ$5.76 after it said it would acquire Australian information management company LitSupport.

Chorus fell 4.38 per cent to NZ$2.62 as investors booked profits on a surge in the telecom network operator this week, which pushed shares to a 14-month high of NZ$2.75 on Wednesday.