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Australia shares end at 5-month high; NZ extends rally

[BENGALURA] Australian shares ended higher on Tuesday, extending gains for a fifth consecutive session underpinned by a record close on Wall Street and higher oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.7 per cent or 42.837 points at 5,889.6, its highest close since May 3. The benchmark rose 0.6 per cent on Monday.

Wall Street advanced on Monday, ahead of a long list of earnings this week, and oil prices rose as political tensions threaten supplies.

Tensions mounted as Iraqi forces seized the oil-rich city of Kirkuk from largely autonomous Kurdish fighters, and as US President Donald Trump refused to certify Iran's compliance over a nuclear deal last Friday.

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The Australian benchmark index was led by gains in financials and materials stocks, with the "Big Four" banks rising between 0.5 per cent and 1.4 per cent.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd closed 0.6 per cent higher, after it sold its pension unit to IOOF Holdings for A$975 million (S$1 billion) Among material stocks, Rio Tinto Ltd ended the session at its highest since Feb 14, 2013.

The global miner on Tuesday said it had lifted its third-quarter iron ore shipments by 6 per cent, after a sluggish first half when bad weather and rail track maintenance crimped iron ore production.

BHP Billiton Ltd finished 1.3 per cent higher.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 per cent or 21.32 points to finish the session at 8,112.05.

Data earlier in the day showed that the country's third-quarter inflation rate jumped, overtaking the central bank forecasts, but is unlikely to alter the bank's determination to keep rates on hold.

Gains on the index were led by consumer staples and materials stocks.

a2 Milk Company Ltd gained 2.6 per cent to end the session at a record high, while Fletcher Building Ltd rose 1.7 per cent.

REUTERS