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Banks, materials prop Australia shares; NZ score 3rd straight record closing high

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended higher on Wednesday, supported by gains in financials and material stocks, with upbeat profit numbers by Commonwealth Bank of Australia boosting its stock even as the bank struggled to shake off a money laundering scandal.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 21.95 points, or 0.4 per cent, to close at 5,765.7. The benchmark fell 0.5 per cent on Tuesday.

Financial stocks accounted for more than half the gains on the benchmark, with the "Big Four" banks advancing between 0.6 per cent and 0.9 per cent.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia pared some gains to end 0.6 per cent higher.

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The lender rose as much as 1.4 per cent in the session after its fiscal year profit beat expectations, helped by growth in its home lending arm and as expenses related to bad debts fell.

The solid profits provided some solace to the lender which conceded that its reputation is on the line over breaches of anti money-laundering regulations. The allegations levelled by Austrac, the government's financial intelligence agency, have wiped billions of dollars from CBA's market capitalisation.

Elsewhere, upbeat metals prices lifted material stocks. Newcrest Mining Ltd rose 1.4 per cent to a near six-week closing high, while mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto ended 0.4 per cent and 0.6 per cent higher, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 16.92 points, or 0.2 per cent, to end at 7,799.64, erasing losses of nearly 0.5 per cent recorded earlier in the session.

The index closed at record high for a third consecutive session, with gains in telecom company Spark New Zealand and retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare offsetting a 3.7 per cent drop in SkyCity Entertainment Group.

SkyCity, a casino operator, fell 3.7 to post its lowest close in over four months after reporting a 69.2 per cent slump in full-year net profit.

REUTERS

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