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Australia: Shares enjoy relief rally as oil jumps, NZ stocks flat


[SYDNEY] Australian shares rebounded on Thursday as a surge in oil and other commodities brought relief to hard-hit resource companies and helped recoup a little of the week's heavy losses.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 70.0 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 4,946.8 at the midsession.

Gains were led by BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd which lifted the ASX 300 Metals & Mining Index over 6 per cent.

The S&P/ASX 200 Energy index added 3.8 per cent after Wednesday's 8 per cent surge in oil prices boosted producers such as Santos Ltd.

Crude oil futures extended their gains on Thursday courtesy of a weaker US dollar and unconfirmed talk of producers potentially meeting to discuss output cuts.

The bounce spread to the major banks which were all up between 1 and 2 per cent after some heavy losses recently.

Not so lucky was investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd which shed 6 per cent after reporting a fall in December quarter net profit.

Also under pressure was medical supplies maker Ansell Ltd which slid 18 per cent to its lowest in almost 3 years after issuing a profit warning.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was relatively unchanged on Thursday, lifting 5 points to 6.138.68.

The biggest gainers were Nuplex, which rose 3.7 per cent and A2 Milk, up 3.5 per cent. The biggest losers were Z Energy, down 1.7 per cent.

Sentiment improved after US stocks rallied late Wednesday but trading was fairly tepid with most investors now waiting for company earnings to provide direction.