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Australia: Shares extend gains to decade-high; NZ higher

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged up to 10-year highs on Tuesday, helped by firmer financials and as miners found support on solid commodity prices after China issued new curbs on steel production.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 per cent to 6,149.5, its strongest level in a decade. The benchmark, which rose 0.1 per cent on Monday, is on track for a fifth straight session in the black.

A Wall Street rally that saw major indexes revel at record highs last week eased on Monday as healthcare and financial sectors weighed and investors took a breather ahead of earnings season.

Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities, said the Australian market has opened strongly in recent sessions, buoyed by firm Wall Street leads, but sold off later in the day as investors in Asia take profits.

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"I think this is probably going to happen till we get a strong indicator out of the United States," he said.

Mining stocks were among the biggest supporters of the index, with BHP Billiton climbing 1.4 per cent to its highest in nearly three years and Rio Tinto touching its best level in almost six-and-a-half years.

South32 surged 2.7 per cent to an all-time high, while Fortescue Metals Group and BlueScope Steel notched gains of 2.3 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively.

Chinese steel futures swung to gains in late trading on Monday, boosting iron ore prices 3 per cent, after Beijing issued stricter rules on new steel capacity, raising hopes that steel capacity would not grow.

The Aussie metals and mining index was up 1 per cent at levels last seen in February 2013.

Banking stocks added to the cheer, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia rising to its highest in five months. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group advanced 0.9 per cent to a near three-week high.

Financials stocks have been boosted by a firm Australian dollar, which was lifted by robust commodity prices, said Somasundaram.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.3 per cent in lacklustre trade, with gains in healthcare stocks outweighing losses in telecoms and industrials.

Ryman Healthcare climbed to record levels and EBOS Group touched over eight-month highs, while Spark New Zealand slipped 1 per cent to a near five-week low.

REUTERS