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Australia: Shares edge up tracking Wall Street; NZ hits record high

[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged up on Thursday, tracking Wall Street higher, with the gains fairly broad based, driven by material and consumer stocks, while New Zealand shares hit an all-time high aided by consumer stocks.

US stocks edged up to extend their run of record closing highs on Wednesday as strong services sector data added to signs of strength in the economy and boosted earnings prospects.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index was up 13.342 points, or 0.2 per cent to 5,664.2 by 0155 GMT.

Australia's goods and services trade surplus grew to A$989 million (S$1.06 billion) versus the expected A$875 million, and July's trade surplus of A$460 million.

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The gain was thanks largely to a 10 per cent rebound in iron ore, Australia's single biggest export earner.

Mining stocks, which had been under pressure in the previous session, drove gains with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto adding 0.9 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively.

The materials index was also boosted by gold stocks, with Newcrest mining gaining 1.3 per cent.

"Gold stocks are used by short term traders as a proxy for the underlying commodity and it appears that they have collectively decided that given the lower level of gold prices, the balance of risk has shifted to the upside of gold and therefore the gold sector," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Laggards for the past three sessions, retailers Wesfarmers and Woolworths gained, up 0.7 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively, shrugging off data that showed retail sales for August fell 0.6 per cent against the expected 0.3 per cent rise.

"It's the index trading that is dominating the action in the market today. So it is general buying rather than sector specific," Mr McCarthy said.

Financial and energy stocks were among the losers, with the"Big Four" banks each losing more than 0.4 per cent. The S&P 500 Financial (Sector) index ended 0.3 per cent lower in the previous session.

Among oil stocks, Woodside Petroleum declined 0.4 per cent, while Origin Energy lost 0.7 per cent. Oil prices fell on Wednesday after a surprising jump in US crude exports to a record 2 million barrels per day fanned worries about global oversupply.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.4 per cent, or 31.26 points, to hit an all-time high at 7,980.95.

Strong consumer and telecom stocks pushed New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 index gains. Market darling a2 Milk was up 4.7 per cent, hitting all-time high of NZ$7.21, while Spark New Zealand rose as much as 1.7 per cent, posting its biggest one-day gain in nearly a month.

REUTERS