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Australia: Shares close at over 16-mth high; NZ edges up


[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed at their highest in more than 16 months in thin trade on Wednesday, led by materials and financial stocks as investor sentiment was boosted by Wall Street's record run overnight.

The NASDAQ Composite rose to record highs while the Dow Jones industrial average flirted with the 20,000 point mark. The rally was fuelled by financials.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 per cent, or 22.43 points, to 5,613.5, its highest closing level since Aug 5, 2015.

Financial stocks followed suit to close at their highest in over 16 months, in step with the gains of their US counterparts.

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National Australia Bank Ltd and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd led the pack, both closing at multi-month highs.

Miners jumped 1.4 per cent, aided by recovering copper and gold prices.

BHP Billiton Ltd lifted the main index most, gaining over 1 per cent, while Rio Tinto Ltd added 1.5 per cent.

Energy stocks gained with oil prices nudging up over expectations of reduction in US crude inventory ahead of data to be announced later in the day.

Oil Search Ltd gained about 1 per cent and Whitehaven Coal Ltd was up 3 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.19 per cent higher at 6,802.76. There were gains in consumer and materials stocks, but utilities, real estate and healthcare ended down.

a2 Milk Company Ltd gained 5.9 per cent, while Fletcher Building Ltd rose 3.4 per cent, its highest intraday jump since Nov 14.