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New Zealand shares hit new highs, Australia joins rally

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[SYDNEY] New Zealand shares charted new highs on Thursday and Australian shares also made more modest gains, tracking positive overseas leads and traders'expectations of monetary easing.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 33.5 points to 5522.3 by 0150 GMT. The benchmark has gained 0.61 per cent in morning trade on Thursday and has traded in positive territory for 10 of the past 11 sessions.

"I think essentially it's because of lower interest rates," said Bill Keenan, the general manager of direct equities at Melbourne broker Lonsec.

"After the Brexit, interest rates moved lower globally and the main change has probably been the Fed staying on hold. The RBA is thought to have an easing bias and interest rates are key driver of the share market."

Gold miners weighed on the index, but other sectors all rose, with the health, retail and financial stocks all showing gains.

In the healthcare sector Cochlear Ltd, which manufactures implants to treat hearing loss, added 2.89 per cent and biopharmaceutical researcher CSL Ltd climbed 2.1 per cent. Retailers Woolworths and Wesfarmers rose one per cent and 0.4 per cent respectively. Agribuisness company Graincorp Ltd added 1.3 per cent.

Westpac Banking Corporation led modest, but broad-based gains in the financial sector, with a 1.3 per cent rise.

Gold miners traded lower after spot gold reached three-week lows on Wednesday. Newcrest Mining Ltd fell 3.66 per cent. Western Australian gold juniors Regis Resources Ltd and Northern Star Resources Ltd lost substantially with Regis down 6.95 per cent and Northern Start down 6.2 per cent.

Shares in stevedore Qube Holdings Ltd rose 5.9 per cent after Australia's antitrust watchdog gave the green light to a Qube's buyout of rail freight giant Asciano Ltd, as part of a global consortium. Asciano shares rose one per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.7 per cent or 50 points to 7,222.20, tracking positive leads offshore and as investors were cheered by the prospect of lower interest rates for longer.

In an economic update out earlier on Thursday New Zealand's central bank flagged more rate cuts to come.

The biggest gainers were accounting software provider Xero , up 3.1 per cent and exporter Fisher & Paykel Healthcare rising 2.5 per cent, benefiting from a weaker New Zealand dollar after the central bank announcement.

The biggest losers included New Zealand Refining down 3.1 per cent. Earlier on Thursday Deutsche Bank cut its price target to NZ$3.05 from NZ$3.65.