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Australia shares edge up; NZ ends near 3-month high

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended higher on Wednesday, driven by a strong rally in basic material stocks on the back of rising iron ore and base metal prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.19 per cent higher, or 10.798 points, at 5,771.5.

The rally in commodity stocks was fuelled by a rise in iron ore prices as steel and iron ore futures in China advanced for a third session on Wednesday. Base metals were also up with copper and zinc gaining.

The metals and mining index extended gains into a second straight session, rising 2.7 per cent with Rio Tinto adding 3.9 per cent and Fortescue Metals climbing 4.5 per cent.

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Gains by miner BHP Billiton, which has significant oil interests, of 2.6 per cent were also aided by higher oil prices.

Gold Miners Newcrest Mining and Resolute Mining rose 1.2 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively, as gold held near six-week highs.

Whitehaven Coal closed 2.6 per cent up. Data released on Tuesday showed coal exports from Australian state Queensland, one of the world's biggest suppliers to China, hit record levels for the third year in a row in 2016.

Consumer stocks also gained with Woolworths rising 0.8 per cent and Treasury Wine Estates adding nearly 2 per cent.

Financial stocks, however, fell with three of the 'Big Four' losing in the range of 0.3 per cent to 0.8 per cent. Commonwealth Bank of Australia added 0.2 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index hit its highest close since Oct 14, 2016 up 0.46 per cent, or 32.01 points, to 7,069.59.

Gains were led by a2 Milk Company soaring to a near one-month high at 7 per cent.

Following suit were Spark New Zealand and Genesis Energy gaining 1.8 and 1.7 per cent, respectively.

Auckland International Airport also added 1.2 per cent.