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Australia shares end near 10-year high; NZ down

[BENGALURU] Australian shares gained for a third straight session to close at their highest in nearly 10 years on Thursday, as materials and real estate stocks led the upward trend.

The Australian benchmark index ended up 0.6 per cent, or 33.135 points to 6,049.4. The index has gained more than 6 per cent so far this year after the S&P/ASX 200 breached the key 6,000-point level on Tuesday.

Material stocks led the gainers with the metals and mining index scaling its highest in more than three-and-a-half years.

Prices of steel and its raw materials rose to multi-week highs in China on Thursday, a rally that traders say may result from speculative buying as demand for the materials looks set to suffer from Beijing's steel production curbs.

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Mining majors BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were up 0.5 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively, but cement maker James Hardie Industries was the top gainer, posting its biggest intraday gain in over one-and-a-half years on an upbeat profit forecast.

Goodman Group pushed up real estate stocks and touched a more than 10-year high after reaffirming its fiscal year 2018 earnings per security forecast.

New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.2 per cent lower, or 19.33 points at 8,021.09 after the central bank stood pat on interest rates as expected.

The index wrapped up its fifth consecutive session of losses, dragged by healthcare and technology stocks.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp led losers on the index, slipping 2.1 per cent while accounting software firm Xero lost nearly 2 per cent, after it announced it would delist from the New Zealand stock exchange.