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Australia shares close slightly higher as materials offset financials gains

[BENGALURU] Australian shares finished slightly higher on Wednesday, just above the 10-year peak scaled in the previous session as weaker material and energy stocks, weighed by softer oil and commodities prices, offset gains made in the financial sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.03 per cent at 6016.3 points, following a 1 per cent gain on Tuesday.

Losses were largely pared by winning financials stocks with Commonwealth Bank of Australia leading gainers as shares spiked on robust quarterly results and touched their highest in almost two months.

CBA's first-quarter cash profit jumped 10 per cent, topping analyst expectations, as impairment charges fell to a record low and higher mortgage rates widened its home-lending margins.

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Among the other "big-four" banks, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rose 0.3 per cent, while Westpac Banking Corp gained 0.3 per cent.

Meanwhile, mining majors BHP and South32, lost 1 per cent and 1.6 per cent, respectively.

Chinese iron ore futures fell nearly 1 per cent after a five-day streak of gains, underlining demand concerns in the world's top consumer. BHP was also hit by Chinese crude imports in October slumping to their lowest in a year.

New Zealand ended down with materials and consumer staples stocks dragging down the index.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index lost 0.1 per cent or 9.25 points to finish the session at 8,040.42.

Shares of New Zealand's biggest construction company Fletcher Building Ltd fell 1.3 per cent to NZ$6.98, its lowest since February 2016 while A2 Milk extended losses to fall 1.7 per cent trailing global dairy prices that slumped to a seven-month low.