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Australia, NZ shares rise as fears of imminent US strike on Syria ease

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[BENGALURU] Australia shares posted broad-based gains on Friday, following global markets higher after fears of an imminent US attack on Syria eased.

President Donald Trump cast doubt on Thursday over the timing of his threatened strike on Syria in response to a reported poison gas attack.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 per cent, or 22.1 points, to 5,837.6 by 0251 GMT. It fell 0.2 per cent on Thursday.

Aussie shares are set to close the week 0.9 per cent higher, up for a second straight week.

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Resource stocks performed strongly, with the Australian mining index firming up to 1.1 per cent at its highest in more than a month. For the week, the sector index is set to end about 4.7 per cent higher as hopes grow that the US and China will be able to put aside testy trade rhetoric and eventually reach a compromise that will avert the risk of a trade war.

"Perhaps some of the concerns over the impact of the rhetoric and discussions around the trade wars has just been a little bit of a reassessment of what the downside actually is," said Damien Hennessy, co-founder of Heuristic Investment Systems.

"I think that is kind of flowing through to the miners, and the materials sector more generally." Global miner Rio Tinto traded up as much as 2.4 per cent to its highest since the end of February. The stock is on track to end a fifth straight session higher.

Mining rival BHP rose as much as one per cent, set to record a sixth straight session of gains.

The financial index was up as much as 0.4 per cent, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia trading as much as 0.5 per cent higher.

Some of the lender's units provided the Australian securities regulator with enforceable undertakings for failing provide evidence for annual customer reviews.

Moving in the other direction, energy stocks were 0.1 per cent lower after oil prices eased. However, prices of the world most traded commodity were set for the biggest weekly gains since last July.

Australia's energy index has tacked on 1.9 per cent for the week.

ExxonMobil Corp resumed production at the Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas project, after its shut down in the wake of an earthquake in February, its Australian partners Oil Search and Santos said on Friday.

Oil Search Limited rose as much as 1.1 per cent and while Santos Ltd slipped as much as 0.8 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.3 per cent, or 25.1 points, to 8,429.32, buttressed by materials and health care stocks.

Homebuilder Fletcher Building Ltd jumped up to 14 per cent on media reports that Australia's Wesfarmers Ltd was accumulating Fletcher stock.

However, the company said it could neither confirm nor deny such reports.

REUTERS