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Australia shares gain for first day in 4; NZ also up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares snapped a three-day losing streak to end higher on Wednesday as real estate and consumer stocks perked up after positive home building and retail sales data.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.2 per cent, or 9.5 points, at 5,761.4.

Investors bought real estate stocks after data showed that though approvals to build new homes eased 6.2 per cent in February, overall home building is holding up better than many analysts had expected, with strength showing through in detached houses where approvals hit their highest in almost two years.

Mall operator stocks Scentre Group and property developer Mirvac Group rose 2.4 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

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Consumer stocks took heart from data showing that Australian retail sales rebounded, beating expectations, a sign that consumers may be coming out of the doldrums and contribute to economic growth.

Infant formula maker Bellamy's Australia, up 7.1 per cent, and dairy company a2 Milk, up 5.1 per cent, were the top gainers on the benchmark.

Three of the 'Big four' were back in the black, after having fallen earlier in the session, ending 0.3 per cent to 0.8 per cent higher, while ANZ continued to fall.

On the ASX All Ordinaries index, Blue Sky Alternative Investments was the worst performer, down 18.6 per cent, as it resumed trading after U.S. short-seller Glaucus Research Group claimed it had overstated its size, exaggerated performance and over-valued assets.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.8 per cent, or 68.15 points, to finish the session at 8,398.08.

Dairy companies led gains with Synlait Milk rising 4.6 per cent and a2 Milk gaining 3.6 per cent.

Air New Zealand climbed 3.6 per cent. The airline company said it would not renew its alliance with Virgin Australia, covering flights between the two countries, ending a 7-year alliance between the two companies.

Virgin Australia shares ended 4.4 per cent lower after the announcement.

REUTERS