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Australia, NZ: Australia shares climb with commodities, NZ follows

[SYDNEY] Australian shares rose for a third straight session on Thursday as gains in key commodities such as iron ore and a strong finish on Wall Street helped calm recent jitters.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.9 per cent, or 45.45 points, to 5,100.1. That brought gains in the past three sessions to 3.4 per cent and took the index to its highest since March 24.

Miners led the rally, helped by another hefty rise in iron ore prices. The steel-making mineral has climbed over US$6 this week to reach US$59.90 a tonne. BHP Billiton jumped 4.6 per cent to ground last trod in late November, while Rio Tinto added 1.9 per cent.

The biggest gainer on the day was Whitehaven Coal which surged over 11 per cent after it reported coal sales rose 48 per cent in the third quarter, from a year earlier.

Market voices on:

Baby food group Bellamy's Australia climbed 6 per cent after Chinese authorities said new rules on infant formula imports would not take effect until 2018, easing concerns that sales would be hit in the near term.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.21 per cent or 13.91 points to a 6,791.82 on Thursday, inching up to another record level.

Health software company Orion Health Group rose 2.33 per cent. New Zealand subsidiaries of Australian banks also gained, with Westpac rising 1.82 per cent and ANZ up 1.05 per cent.

Shares in Fonterra's fund, which provides investor exposure to the farmer-owned dairy exporter, rose 0.88 per cent after the company announced its strike price for shares.

Restaurant Brands, which operates Pizza Hut and Starbucks Coffee outlets in New Zealand, lost 0.98 per cent as the company announced its full year results showing net profit after tax rose only one per cent.