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Australia: Shares edge up on tech, gold firms; New Zealand scales new peak

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Australian shares inched up in narrow ranges on Thursday buoyed by gains in technology and gold firms, with investors largely on the sidelines ahead of the Christmas break.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares inched up in narrow ranges on Thursday buoyed by gains in technology and gold firms, with investors largely on the sidelines ahead of the Christmas break.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 4.5 points or 0.1 per cent to 6,855.9 by 0052 GMT. The benchmark closed flat across Tuesday and Wednesday as well.

Many macro developments markets were expecting including Brexit and a trade truce have now been addressed, said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

However, markets are likely to remain on edge given the steep plunge US stocks posted in December last year, as well as developments on the ongoing impeachment proceedings of US President Donald Trump.

"The market is breathing a half sigh of relief, but is still very cognitive that we haven't finished the year yet," he said.

In Dec. 2018, the S&P 500 fell over 9 per cent, hurt by an escalation in the Sino-US trade war, US interest rate hikes and slowing corporate growth. The Australian benchmark managed to escape with just a 0.3 per cent drop across the same period.

Gold stocks recovered from early losses to add 0.1 per cent, with Northern Star Resources putting on 2.2 per cent, while Ramelius Resources added 3.1 per cent.

Technology stocks rose 0.6 per cent, helped by software maker Wisetech Global which rose 2.7 per cent and Link Administration Holdings which added 1.7 per cent. Xero gained 1 per cent.

Meanwhile, financials traded flat, weighed by insurers a day after the index's second-largest insurer QBE Insurance Group flagged higher claims payouts at its North American crop business in 2019.

No. 1 insurer Insurance Australia Group fell 1.7 per cent while Suncorp Group lost 0.3 per cent. QBE, however, managed to recover 0.5 per cent after a steep fall in the prior session.

Offsetting the sector's losses, wealth manager AMP, fund manager IOOF Holdings and investment bank Macquarie Group all gained more than 1 per cent each.

Elsewhere, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index logged robust gains, adding 0.8 per cet to 11,415.52 points, hitting a record high.

The index was boosted after data showed New Zealand's economy grew at a faster-than-expected pace in the third quarter on robust retail spending, lifting sentiment.

Shares of Sky Network Television rose most, adding 5.6 per cent after the television broadcaster agreed to buy entertainment streaming service Lightbox and merge it with its own entertainment streaming service Neon.

REUTERS