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Australia: Shares edge higher on Santos' record quarterly production

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares closed slightly higher on Thursday, propped up by the energy sector, after industry heavyweight Santos' better-than-expected quarterly production report, even as investors were poised between the bulls and the bears.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged 0.3 per cent higher to 6,094.50 at the close of trade, following a 1.3 per cent gain on Wednesday.

Santos, the country's second-largest independent gas producer, finished 3.5 per cent higher, its highest close since June 10, after it reported a record 18.6 per cent rise in quarterly production.

This helped the energy sector rise 1.2 per cent to close at its highest since July 6.

Meanwhile, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Thursday the national budget was set to plunge into its biggest deficit since World War Two this year, as the coronavirus crisis knocks Australia into its first recession in three decades.

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"The government budget update today was pretty much in line with what most economists were talking about. So although it's a big number, it's kind of been a non-factor," said Henry Jennings, senior analyst at Marcus Today Financial.

"It's a bit two steps forward, one step back at the moment as we head in towards reporting season, which of course will be the big test for some of the valuations."

Financial stocks rose 0.18 per cent led by QBE Insurance Group, up 4.07 per cent, followed by Perpetual gaining 3.69 per cent.

Among the Big Four banks, Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank finished higher, while the other two closed in the red.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.25 per cent to 11,693.4.



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