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Australia, New Zealand shares climb after Yellen's rate remarks


[BENGALURU] Australian shares finished higher on Thursday, tracking gains on Wall Street after US Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen signalled only a gradual tightening of monetary policy.

The S&P/ASX 200 index, recovering Wednesday's losses, rose 1.1 per cent, or 62.97 points, to 5,736.80.

The benchmark closed at a three-week low in the previous session, falling nearly 1 per cent to 5,673.8 - the second time this month it dropped below the psychologically important 5,700 level.

The Dow rose to a record high after Ms Yellen's less hawkish than expected congressional testimony was seen as a green light for Wall Street to step up riskier trades.

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Australia's financial index rose nearly 1 per cent though US counterparts, which tend to benefit from higher rates, were last among sectors, closing up 0.1 per cent.

The biggest banks by market value, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp, were among the top gainers on the benchmark by weight, up 1.9 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively.

Biotherapeutics firm CSL Ltd was also among the top performers with its near 3 per cent ascent helping the healthcare index have its best day since mid-January.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended up 0.3 per cent at 7,610.89, aided by industrial and healthcare shares.

Auckland International Airport and Fischer & Paykel Healthcare Corp were the benchmark's biggest gainers, 1.5 per cent and 1 per cent higher respectively.