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Australia shares finish firmer for fourth straight session; NZ flat


[SYDNEY] Australian shares closed firmer for a fourth straight session on Tuesday, tracking a strong lead from Wall Street and its robust by technology and energy stocks, with local material stocks gaining on higher metals prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 per cent or 14.900 points to 6,013.200 at the close of trade. The benchmark added 0.07 per cent on Monday.

The Australian metals and mining index rose 0.8 per cent, supported by an overnight rise in steel and copper prices.

Mining giant BHP rose 1.7 per cent, accounting for most of the gains on the benchmark, while its peer Rio Tinto Ltd rose 1.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, energy stocks were the best performers as they extended gains on higher oil prices.

Brent crude oil prices jumped above $65 per barrel for the first time since 2015 after the shutdown of the Forties North Sea pipeline knocked out significant supply from a market that was already tightening due to Opec-led production cuts.

Oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum Ltd climbed 1.7 per cent to its highest in over a month, registering a fourth consecutive session of gains.

Real estate stocks also finished the day higher, with Scentre Group posting a near six-month high as it surged 4.1 per cent, a record percentage gain for the shares.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd led the rally in financial stocks as it rose to its highest close since Nov 27.

Zurich Insurance has agreed to buy Australia and New Zealand Banking Group's life insurance arm for A$2.85 billion (S$2.9 billion),its biggest foray into Australia and its third in the last two years.

In New Zealand, the market closed effectively flat, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index up 3.30 points or 0.04 percent at 8,280.81.

Fletcher Building Ltd accounted for most of the gains as it climbed 1.4 per cent to a near 1-1/2 month high.