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Australia: Shares get boost from oil and copper prices

[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended higher on Wednesday as sentiment was boosted by a jump in oil and copper prices, helping lift energy and material stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 50 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 5,776.60 by the end of trade, its highest close in nearly three weeks.

Oil rallied on Saudi Arabia's pledge to limit crude exports to help curb global oversupply, while copper hit a two-year high.

Australia's energy index climbed 2.9 per cent, with Woodside Petroleum Ltd, Caltex Australia Ltd and Oil Search gaining between 2.3 per cent and 3.2 per cent.

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Miners rose on base metal prices, with OZ Minerals Ltd touching a 15-week high and Sandfire Resources NL adding 8.2 per cent.

Separately, investors were also waiting on the outcome of the US Federal Reserve's meeting later in the day, at which it is widely expected to hold interest rates unchanged.

"I don't think there will be too much in the actual rates decision itself. I think the investors will be looking for any sign by the Fed on when they are going to start winding back the size of its balance sheet," said Tony Farnham, an economist with Patersons Securities.

The Fed's policy statement may provide more visibility on when this reduction might occur.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 2.47 points, or 0.03 per cent, to finish at 7,710.59.

Telecoms and industrials led the losses. NZX Ltd, the biggest drag on the index, fell to a nearly two-week low.