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Australia, NZ: Shares up as financials gain on Yellen's hawkish comments


[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Friday as financials were boosted by a strong rally in their counterparts on Wall Street as comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and upbeat US economic data bolstered the case for a rate hike in the US next month.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 per cent, or 8.8 points, to 5,347.4 at 0105 GMT.

Strong gains in bank stocks underpinned US shares overnight after Ms Yellen said the Fed could raise interest rates'relatively soon', while US consumer prices recorded their biggest increase in six months in October.

Traders are pricing in an 83 per cent chance of a December US rate hike, according to Thomson Reuters data.

"Markets across the board are taking heart from Yellen's comments, and the financials had a very good night in the US, and that's reverberated quite nicely here domestically" said Ben Le Brun, market analyst at OptionsXpress.

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The financials index rose as much as 0.7 per cent to three-month highs.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia and QBE Insurance Group Ltd also touched three-month highs, rising 0.8 per cent and 1.7 per cent, respectively.

National Australia Bank jumped 1.1 per cent to six-month high.

Telecommunication stocks had another strong day, with the index up 2.4 per cent for its third straight session of gains.

Telstra Corp was the biggest gainer on the main index after the telco on Thursday flagged cost cuts of over A$1 billion (S$1.044 billion) by FY2021.

Vocus Communications rose as much as 1.3 per cent.

Gold producer Northern Star Resources fell as much as five per cent to its lowest in six months, hurt by lower global prices for the yellow metal.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.6 per cent to 6,858.29 at 0105 GMT, led by industrials and utilities.

Auckland International Airport Ltd was the top performer on the index rising as much as 2.5 per cent.

Utilities Meridian Energy Ltd and Mercury NZ Ltd rose more than one per cent each and were among the top ten gainers by points on the benchmark index.

Energy generator and retailer Contact Energy Ltd rose for the fifth straight session.


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