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Australia shares close up but fall for fifth straight month; NZ firm

[BENGALURU] Australian shares finished higher on Friday, with materials and consumer staples leading the gains though the market lost ground for the fifth straight month.

The S&P/ASX 200 index, which has lost 0.7 per cent this quarter, rose 0.2 per cent, or 11.215 points, to 5,681.6 at the close. The benchmark rose 0.11 per cent on Thursday.

For the month, it was off 0.6 per cent, a run of monthly red ink stretching from May.

The biggest gainer on the index was horticulture company Costa Group Holdings, up 6.7 per cent to a record close.

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Material stocks jumped as London copper climbed for a third session on Friday. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto rose 0.9 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged up 0.212 per cent, or 16.78 points to finish the session at 7,930, marking a ninth straight month of gains.

Healthcare and industrial stocks led the gains.

"The market doesn't seem overly concerned about which way the coalition might be formed," said Grant Williamson, investment adviser at Christchurch-based Hamilton Hindin Greene, referring to an inconclusive general election that has left open the prospect of weeks of horse-trading to form the next government.

In a report released on Friday, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand said the country's financial system is on "sound footing" but risks sill remained in its previously red-hot housing market.

"That (RBNZ report) just underpinned the solidness of the economy. We're also seeing a fair degree of foreign buying interest in the local market," Mr Williamson said.

"We have to bear in mind that the New Zealand share market is quite tiny on the international scale, so it doesn't take a lot of foreign buying to push our market higher."

REUTERS