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Australia shares end higher; NZ starts 2018 on strong note

[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed higher on Wednesday, supported by gains in material stocks on the back of a rally in metal prices.

Investor sentiment was also boosted by broader Asian markets which hit a 10-year high as a feast of upbeat manufacturing surveys confirmed a synchronised upturn in the world economy was well under way.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 0.2 per cent, or 9.1 points, to 6,070.4. It had closed slightly lower in the previous session.

The metals and mining index rose 1.7 per cent to its highest close since February 2013, after zinc scaled a 10-year peak on Tuesday as the market focused on looming deficits due to declining supplies.

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BHP Billiton advanced 1.7 per cent to its highest close in 32 months, while fellow mining heavyweight Rio Tinto Ltd extended gains into an 11th session to close at its highest since August 2011.

Oil prices hovered around their mid-2015 highs touched in the previous session, providing a boost to energy stocks.

Woodside Petroleum added a little over one per cent and closed at a seven-month high, making it the top gainer on the energy index.

Sandfire Resources NL was the top gainer on the main stock index with a jump of 3.7 per cent to a near five-year closing high.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.32 per cent, or 26.83 points, to a record close of 8,424.91 on its first day of trade in 2018.

Materials, industrials and consumer staples led the gains. Fletcher Building Ltd gained nearly 2 per cent, while Auckland International Airport rose 1.5 per cent to its highest close in two weeks.

REUTERS