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Australia: Material and financial stocks buoy shares; NZ higher

[BENGALURU] Australian shares rallied on Friday, boosted by financial and material stocks and are on track to end the week on a positive note, tracking a strong handover from Wall Street where the S&P 500 hit fresh highs.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 37.034 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 5,690 by 0043 GMT.

The S&P 500 posted its sixth straight record high close on Thursday, its longest run since 1997, as investors cheered increased prospects for a tax overhaul with Congress moving closer to agreement on a budget resolution.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar continued its decline on Friday, falling 0.1 per cent to 0.77 per US dollar, following Thursday's move lower after dismal August retails sales data.

"As the Aussie dollar falls, it is a positive for the companies that have foreign denominated earnings, and for the country as a whole a higher Aussie reduces competitiveness from an export perspective," said Danial Moradi, an equity strategist with Lonsec.

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Mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto and healthcare stock CSL Ltd are among the index heavyweights that report in US dollars.

CSL was up as much as 1.4 per cent, while BHP and Rio Tinto added 1.9 per cent and 2.1 per cent, respectively, boosted further by higher London copper and a recovery in oil.

Oil prices recovering to gain 2 per cent also supported energy stocks with Woodside Petroleum gaining 1.1 per cent and Caltex Australia rising as much as 2.6 per cent.

Financial stocks rose with the "Big 4" banks gaining between 0.9 per cent and 1.3 per cent.

Utility stocks were the only decliners on the benchmark with AGL Energy and Origin Energy dropping over 0.6 per cent each.

For the session to come, investors will be looking out for US monthly jobs report to be after market close on Friday.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 13.79 points, or 0.17 per cent, to 7,988.49, with gains in utility stocks being offset by losses in consumer stocks.

Meridian Energy rose as much as 2.5 per cent, posting its best day in six months, while a2 Milk fell 2.1 per cent as investors took profit after the stock it all-time high in its previous session. Meanwhile, Fonterra declined as much as 3.04 per cent, its biggest one-day loss in more than one year.


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