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Australia, NZ hit fresh closing peaks on positive global data, trade deal

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares notched a record closing high on Friday for a fourth straight session, as markets cheered positive global economic data while still basking in the afterglow surrounding the freshly signed Sino-US Phase One deal.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 per cent to close at 7,064.10, following a 0.7 per cent firmer finish on Thursday. The benchmark rose about 2 per cent on a weekly basis, its second straight week of gains.

Demand for risky assets improved after data on Friday showed China's economy grew 6.0 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2019 from a year earlier, and 6.1 per cent for the full year, in line with analysts' expectations and within the government's official target, which allayed growth worries.

Meanwhile, data also showed that China's December industrial production grew 6.9 per cent from over a year ago, surpassing a Reuters poll forecast of 5.9 per cent, while retail sales for 2019's last month came in 8 per cent stronger, beating expectations of 7.8 per cent growth.

"These numbers suggest that China's economy has stabilised following exhaustive efforts by the government and central bank," ING analysts said in a note.

"The negative direction of travel by China's economy may have been abated."

China is Australia's top trading partner and the domestic economy's fortunes depend on the health of the world's second largest economy.

Sentiment was further lifted by data that showed US retail sales rose 0.3 per cent in December, in line with economists' estimates, which led major indices on Wall Street to close at record highs overnight.

Global risk appetite has largely improved after Beijing and Washington inked a Phase One trade pact on Wednesday, marking a major step in defusing the prolonged spat that rattled financial markets and weighed on global growth.

Australia's mining stocks were the day's best performers, closing up 1.4 per cent at a near six-month peak, helped by stronger iron ore prices. The sub-index rose 2.8 per cent this week, its biggest weekly gain since Dec 13.

BHP Group rose 1.2 per cent to its highest since July 31, while Rio Tinto climbed about 2 per cent to a more than six-month peak, despite the Anglo-Australian miner reporting a 3 per cent drop in iron ore shipments in 2019.

Technology stocks finished up 0.4 per cent at a record high, propped by software giant Wisetech's 0.4 per cent climb and Appen's 4.4 per cent surge.

Buy-now-pay-later company Sezzle Inc said on Friday that a Californian regulator had approved its application for a lending licence, after having been rejected earlier in the month.

The heavyweight financial sector ended marginally higher at a near two-month peak, with three of the "big four" lenders finishing in the positive territory. The sub-index marked its second consecutive weekly gain.

Bucking the trend, energy stocks settled down 0.7 per cent, as oil prices slipped, with industry heavyweight Santos inching 0.8 per cent lower while Woodside Petroleum shed 1.2 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5 per cent to finish at 11,800.21, its third straight record closing high. On a weekly basis, the New Zealand benchmark gained 2.2 per cent, biggest since late November. 

REUTERS