[SYDNEY] Australian shares climbed 0.8 per cent on Wednesday, heading for their sixth straight day of gains in thin trading ahead of Christmas holidays, helped by a rally in banks and resources counters.
Rising prices of iron ore, Australia's top export earner, underpinned natural resources stocks with global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto jumping 3.5 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 41.00 points to 5,157.70 by 0039 GMT. The benchmark closed little changed in the last session.
Meanwhile, New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.4 per cent or 23 points to 6,174.24, a new record high in thin pre-Christmas rally. "In the past 3 years, the odds of hitting better than 5 consecutive days of positive returns are just below 3 per cent. Logic suggests there will be a day of profit taking soon but the trend remains positive," Baillieu Holst said in a morning note.
The Australian index has had a tough year, already down nearly 5 per cent so far and on track for its first negative annual returns since 2011.
However, analysts maintained a bullish long-term view of the index on the back of an improving macro-economic outlook and a weak Aussie dollar. The benchmark is expected to rebound in 2016 to 5,625 points, a Reuters poll found.
On Wednesday, the big four banks including Westpac and National Australia Bank were up 0.5-1.4 per cent. Top investment bank Macquarie rose about 2 per cent.
Atlas Iron surged 20 per cent after the market digested its new debt restructure agreement.
Lend Lease jumped nearly 4 per cent after the property and infrastructure company announced a new investment in an upcoming office tower development in Sydney's Darling Harbour.
Rail freight operator Aurizon Holdings slumped over 16 per cent to its lowest since July 2013 on bleak outlook.
Melbourne-based law firm Slater & Gordon skidded nearly 4 per cent after news rival Maurice Blackburn is to open registrations to pursue a class action lawsuit against the former.
For more individual stocks activity click on In New Zealand, the biggest gainers were Sky Network Television, up 2.1 per cent and Fletcher Building , up 1.6 per cent.
The biggest losers Xero, down 1.1 per cent and A2 Milk, down 0.6 per cent as investors continue to take profits.