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Australia, NZ shares edge higher led by banks


[BENGALURU] Australian shares inched higher on Thursday, led by financials, encouraged Wall Street's surge to a record close and by Bank of America's confidence that the new US tax system would eventually benefit shareholders.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 per cent, up 9.8 points to 6,025.60 by 0016 GMT.

"Financials stocks are featuring quite well after the news out of Bank of America," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

The Aussie S&P/ASX 200 financials rose over half a per cent, posting its biggest intraday percentage gain in nearly two weeks, with Westpac Banking Corp hauling the index higher by soaring 1.6 per cent.

The other 'Big Four' banks gained between 0.3 per cent and 0.7 per cent.

The Australian metals & mining index rose 0.1 per cent before dipping slightly later, with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto climbing 1.4 per cent and 0.6 per cent, respectively.

BHP Billiton reported a 3 per cent rise in second quarter iron ore production on Thursday, and also expects to meet its full year production target.

The top gainer on the main index was medical technology company Nanosonics Ltd, which saw its best session in nearly seven weeks.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged up 0.1 per cent or 6.27 points to 8,303.94 by 0016 GMT.

New Zealand's Westpac Banking Corporation and Comvita Ltd lead the gains, rising 1.8 per cent apiece.


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