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Australia shares end higher after NAB earnings; NZ slips


[BENGALURU] Australian shares firmed on Thursday, led by a rally in financials after National Australia Bank Ltd reported a 3 per cent rise in first-quarter unaudited cash profit.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.24 per cent or 13.900 points to close at 5,890.700. The benchmark added 0.8 per cent on Wednesay.

Shares of NAB, the country's fourth-biggest bank by market value, rose 2.3 per cent for its biggest per centage gain in nearly seven months.

It posted unaudited cash earnings of A$1.65 billion (S$1.7 billion) for the three months ended Dec 31.

The Australian financial index added 0.8 point, and accounted for most of the S&P/ASX 200's gains.

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AMP Ltd, Australia's largest wealth manager, was also among the top gainers as it surged 3.6 per cent after more than doubling its full-year underlying earnings.

Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rose 0.8 per cent after saying it would close its retail banking operation in Laos to focus on institutional banking there.

Materials stocks fell, tracking a downturn in global commodity prices. The Australian metals and mining index dipped about 1 per cent, led by miners BHP and Rio Tinto .

Rio Tinto slid nearly 1 per cent despite announcing a record dividend payout for 2017 on Wednesay.

New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 index slid 0.2 per cent or 17.59 points to close at 8,177.14.

Telecom stocks and industrials led the decline on the benchmark, with Spark New Zealand Ltd dipping 1.4 per cent and Auckland International Airport Ltd falling to its lowest in about 3-1/2 week low.

New Zealand's central bank kept interest rates steady at their record low on Thursday and said volatility in equity markets this week was a warning sign that global markets are nervous about the risk of higher inflation and rising interest rates.


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