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Australia: Shares firm on Wall St, Trump tax plan; New Zealand flat

[BENGALURU] Australian shares steadied on Thursday, supported by gains on Wall Street on hopes President Donald Trump's administration may be making progress on a broad US tax-reduction plan.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.11 per cent, 6.317 points to 5,670.6 by 0240 GMT, after losing 0.1 per cent on Wednesday.

Mr Trump proposed the biggest US tax overhaul in three decades, calling for tax cuts for most Americans, but prompting criticism that the plan favours business and the rich and could add trillions of dollars to the deficit.

"We've (Australia) had some strong leads from overseas markets with rallies across Europe and US in overnight trading," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets. "We've also seen good support for industrial commodities like copper making gains, and we've seen some good data."

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Copper closed higher on Wednesday, snapping five consecutive days of losses, as expectations that buoyant demand would outstrip supply in the longer term tempted some buyers back to the market.

New orders for US-made capital goods increased more than expected in August, while profits at industrial companies in China - Australia's biggest export market - rose the most in four years in August as commodities prices surged.

"Growth in the globe is a positive all around and those positive leads are feeding into Asia Pacific trading today," Mr McCarthy said.

Financial stocks rose as much as 0.7 per cent, with the "Big Four" banks gaining between 0.2 per cent and 0.4 per cent.

Utilities were the biggest boost to the index, with electricity supplier Infigen Energy adding as much as 4.7 per cent and hitting its highest in over two weeks.

The stock was also the biggest percentage gainer on the main index.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose marginally, up just 0.071 per cent, or 5.65 points, to 7,919.43, on track for a fifth straight session of gains.

The country's central bank on Thursday kept interest rates at record lows of 1.75 per cent, and hinted at a lower growth outlook due to headwinds in the construction sector, against the backdrop of political uncertainty from an inconclusive national election.

Consumer staples and information technology stocks led the gains, with Synlait Milk Ltd jumping nearly 11 per cent to a record high, and software company Xero Ltd hitting more than a three-year high, up as much as 3.3 per cent.

Synlait Milk was the biggest gainer on the main index.

REUTERS