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Australia shares end higher on materials and financials; NZ up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed modestly higher on Wednesday, supported by financial stocks that rose on positive leads from US counterparts, and by materials that were underpinned by higher commodity prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 per cent, or 21.40 points, to end at 5,671.50.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq set record highs on Tuesday in a broad rally led by financial and technology stocks.

Australia's local financial index snapped six sessions of losses, with the 'Big four' up between 0.4 per cent and 1.1 per cent.

The metals and mining index rose as much as 2.4 per cent to its highest in over two years.

Steel and iron ore futures in China rose for a second day on Wednesday, supported by hopes that demand for both commodities will strengthen after the Lunar New Year holiday.

Mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd rose as much as 3.5 per cent to its highest since June 2015. The world's biggest miner reported a nine per cent rise in iron ore output in its fiscal second quarter.

Rival Rio Tinto Ltd gained as much as 3.8 per cent, its highest in over two and a half years, after it agreed to sell its unit Coal & Allied Industries Ltd to Yancoal Australia Ltd for up to US$2.45 billion in cash.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.4 per cent, or 26.75 points higher, at 7,090.91, its highest close in over three months.

Industrials led gains, with Port Of Tauranga ending 2.3 per cent higher.


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