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Australia shares end firmer as trade concessions lift sentiment; NZ dips

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed higher on Thursday, led by financials, as signs of a de-escalation in the Sino-US trade dispute lifted risk sentiment, while investors hoped the European Central Bank (ECB) will dole out stimulus measures.

The S&P/ASX 200 index advanced 0.3 per cent to 6,654.90 at the close of trade. The benchmark closed 0.4 per cent higher on Wednesday.

In a symbolic gesture, US President Donald Trump agreed to delay an additional hike in tariffs on Chinese goods due in October by two weeks, after China announced tariff exemptions for a basket of US goods, just ahead of fresh talks scheduled for early October.

There are "rising hopes that the upcoming US-China trade talks will be off to a good start with the recent de-escalating moves," OCBC analysts said in a note to clients.

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The ECB is widely expected to announce a rate cut and monetary stimulus, following its meeting later in the day, as a precursor to advent global quantitative easing.

Financial stocks, which constitute over one-third of the domestic benchmark, climbed 0.3 per cent to their highest in nearly six weeks.

"Any glimpse of peace in the US-China trade war can be explained as a positive for equities, including the banks," said Marc Kennis, principal of Pitt Street Research.

All the "Big Four" banks inched upward, with the country's largest lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia ending the session almost 1 per cent firmer at a 5-1/2-week high.

In the mining space, iron ore miner Fortescue Metals' 2.2 per cent climb provided much boost to the industry index , which advanced 0.5 per cent.

The rise was fuelled by higher iron ore prices, which increased to a five-week peak, in anticipation of some restocking demand for the steelmaking raw material ahead of holidays in China.

Local gains on the benchmark were capped by a 1.3 per cent fall in the energy index, with Whitehaven Coal Ltd down 3.7 per cent at close, and oil and gas company Woodside Petroleum ending about 2 per cent lower.

Technology stocks erased earlier gains to finish marginally lower. Data solutions provider Appen Ltd ended 2 per cent lower, while software maker Bravura Solutions Ltd slid nearly 6 per cent to close at a near three-week low.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dipped 0.2 per cent to finish the session at 10,905.06, with fuel retailer Z Energy Ltd and Synlait Milk as top losers.

Synlait Milk shares ended almost 10 per cent lower after the dairy processing company's annual net profit fell short of expectations as a revised pricing deal with its branding partner A2 Milk resulted in lower margins. 

REUTERS