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Australia shares end higher as miners surge; NZ sheds gains

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[BENGALURU] Australia's benchmark share index pared gains to end at an over two-week high on Friday as soaring iron ore and oil prices coupled with a weaker local dollar bolstered mining and energy stocks.

Growing expectations that the central bank could cut interest rates as soon as next month also continued to buoy investors' confidence.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.6 per cent or 37.50 points to close at 6,365.30, after climbing as much as 1.1 per cent to an over 11-year high earlier. The benchmark closed 0.7 per cent higher on Thursday.

"The action is being led by a very strong performance on base metals overnight. The odds of another interest rate cut after the election are also high, which makes high yielding stocks very attractive," said James McGlew, Executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

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Australia is holding a general election on Saturday, with polls showing the opposition has a slight advantage.

A drop in the Aussie dollar triggered by the trade tensions provided further impetus to export-focused commodity stocks.

Miners ended up 1.7 per cent, after Chinese iron ore futures hit a record high, boosted by robust demand for the steelmaking material amid tight supply.

BHP Group closed 2.5 per cent higher amid heavy trading volumes and rival Rio Tinto advanced 2.1 per cent. Fortescue Metals Group rose 7 per cent to its highest close nearly 11 years.

Mining stocks notched a weekly gain of nearly 5.5 per cent and have risen over 19.3 per cent this year on the back of rising prices supported by disruptions to supply.

Energy stocks also soared after oil futures rose more than 1 per cent as tensions in the Middle east grew, stoking worries of a hit to supply.

Woodside Petroleum rose 1.2 per cent while Origin Energy added 1.9 per cent.

Gains were capped by financial stocks, which reversed from early gains to slip 0.9 per cent and posted a third straight week of losses. They were down 4.1 per cent for the week. All of the "Big Four" traded in the red.

New Zealand's central bank revoked Australia and New Zealand Banking Group's local unit's ability to autonomously assess its risk capital requirement, citing persistent shortcomings.

ANZ's shares tumbled 3 per cent and was the second biggest percentage loser on the broader index. ANZ's peers also widened losses after the news.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gave up early gains to rise just 3.81 points or 0.04 per cent to 10,180.80, having earlier hit a record high during the session.

Exchange operator NZX Ltd rose 1.9 per cent while dairy firm Fonterra Shareholders' Fund edged slightly higher. 

REUTERS