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Australia: Shares extend winning streak as banks rally


[SYDNEY] Australia's share market rose for an eleventh straight session on Thursday to reach a fresh seven-year closing high as three of the big four local banks scaled record peaks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.6 per cent at 5,811.0, having earlier touched 5,819.1 - a high not seen since May 2008. The index has risen 9.5 per cent in 11 sessions, a feat not seen in over five years.

A late rally in bank stocks helped offset losses in the energy sector, which fell on a renewed slide in oil prices.

Commonwealth Bank reached A$93.29 (S$97.86), while Westpac Bank hit A$36.54. ANZ retested its all-time high of A$35.07 first reached nearly a year ago.

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National Australia Bank, which reported a 6 per cent gain in first-quarter cash profit, climbed to a 15-month high of A$37.03. However, it was still some way off its record peak of A$44.84 set back in 2007.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent, or 12.3 points, to finish at 5,797.6.