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Australia shares end higher helped by materials, energy; NZ gains


[BENGALURU] Australian shares finished in positive territory, supported by materials and energy stocks, while investors remained cautious ahead of a potentially tense meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping later this week.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.3 per cent or 19.65 points higher at 5,876.20. "Markets are really on hold at the moment," said Ric Spooner, Chief market strategist at CMC markets, adding that investors were looking for catalysts from the Trump-Xi meeting as well as the US earnings season.

Trade and security issues are set to figure prominently, with a focus on North Korea, which fired a ballistic missile from its east coast into the sea on Wednesday.

The materials index rose 2.8 per cent, with BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto finishing over 3 per cent higher.

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Copper prices rallied as China returned from a two-day break to buy up metals following brighter global manufacturing reports.

Oil prices jumped to a near one-month high on signs of a gradual tightening in global oil inventories. Woodside Petroleum Ltd ended 1.6 per cent higher.

Financials remained under pressure, with Westpac Banking Corp closing 0.6 per cent down.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index reversed losses from earlier in the session to close 0.3 per cent, or 20.51 points higher at 7,265.05.

Healthcare and consumer stocks led the gains, with Ryman Healthcare Ltd rising 2 per cent, while a2 Milk Company Ltd rose more than 3 per cent.