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Australia shares finish higher; NZ hits another record

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended higher on Friday, hitting a fresh decade-peak and completing its first weekly session of gains in the new year.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7 per cent, or 45.2 points to 6,122.3 at the close of trade. The benchmark closed slightly up in the previous session.

Financials and material stocks outperformed other sectors on the index.

The "Big Four" banks gained between 0.8 per cent and 1.5 per cent, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia closing at its highest since Nov 13.

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The mining and materials index jumped 1.2 per cent to its highest close in nearly five years, with mining heavyweights BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd adding 0.8 per cent and 0.5 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose slightly by 0.1 per cent, or 12.05 points, after retreating earlier in the day, finishing the session at a record high of 8,455.55.

Utilities and material stocks led the gains, with Meridian Energy closing up 1.2 per cent at its highest in over three weeks and Fletcher Building Ltd climbing 1.6 per cent to an 11-week closing high.

The index has gained for eight consecutive weekly sessions.

REUTERS