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Australian shares creep to 5-month high as China congress eyed; NZ also up

[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended little changed on Wednesday as investors focused on China's twice-a-decade Communist Party conference for clues on policy direction in the country's biggest export market.

President Xi Jinping said in his opening speech to the gathering that China will deepen market-oriented reforms of exchange rates and interest rates, reiterating an oft-heard government pledge.

However, the keynote speech dealt only with broad themes and gave few details.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up a fractional 0.02 per cent or 0.888 points at 5,890.5. The benchmark gained 0.7 per cent on Tuesday.

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The health care index rose 1.1 per cent to hit an over three-month high, led by Sirtex Medical Ltd which rose 3.3 per cent.

AGL Energy Ltd ended 2.1 per cent higher.

Telstra Corporation Ltd and education company Navitas Ltd shed 1.7 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

Miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd edged lower.

BHP Billiton reported a 4 per cent drop in quarterly iron ore output while Rio Tinto came under pressure after the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday charged the company and two of its former top executives with fraud.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index also marked time, edging up 0.04 per cent or 2.97 points to finish the session at 8,115.02.

Utilities and Telecom services were the top gaining sectors on the index with Contact Energy and Spark New Zealand Ltd climbing 0.9 per cent and 0.6 per cent, respectively.

Global dairy prices slumped for the second time in a row at an auction held early on Wednesday, suggesting an earlier rally was running out of steam.

REUTERS

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