[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended higher on Wednesday, capping their best month since last November, lifted by strong factory data from the country's top trade partner China and as investors adjusted their holdings for some month-end "window dressing".
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.8 per cent higher at 6,790.70 after gaining as much as 1.8 per cent earlier in the day. The benchmark gained 1.76 per cent on a monthly basis and ended the first quarter 3.1 per cent higher.
Investor sentiment was aided by China's manufacturing Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) data, which showed surprisingly upbeat manufacturing activity in March as factories cranked up production after a brief lull during the Lunar New Year holiday.
"Today has been a combination of month-end 'window dressing', also the Chinese PMI was quite positive," Henry Jennings, senior analyst at Marcustoday Financial Newsletter said.
"Window dressing" is trading activity towards the end of a quarter or fiscal year that is designed to improve the appearance of a portfolio.
"(The PMI data) was above expectations and it shows that the Chinese economy is doing quite well ... which obviously helps our resources sector and our economy as well as we're so geared to it." Australian mining stocks climbed 0.3 per cent, with industry giants BHP Group marking the best session in more than three weeks and Rio Tinto gaining over 1 per cent.
The heavyweight financial index closed its best session since March 9 about 0.7 per cent higher, with the so-called "Big Four" banks finishing in the positive territory.
"Bond yields both in United States and Australia are back to their highs ... When you got yields going up, banks tend to be the obvious trade and they've been benefiting out of it," Mathan Somasundaram, chief executive officer at Deep Data Analytics said.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.9 per cent higher at 12,560.70, with Mercury NZ and Pushpay Holdings as top gainers.