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Australia shares higher after positive Chinese data; NZ sluggish

[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Wednesday, gaining after better than expected Chinese manufacturing data boosted sentiment, while a continued rise in financials helped offset losses in the energy and basic materials sectors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.3 per cent, or 15.51 points, at 5,733.40 by 0317 GMT. The benchmark finished 0.2 per cent higher on Tuesday.

Consumer stocks and industrials got a lift after an official survey showed China's manufacturing sector in May grow in line with the previous month, beating expectations and reassuring markets the world's second-largest economy isn't losing too much steam.

The services sector, which comprised over half of China's economy last year, grew faster in May from April.

Market voices on:

"The PMI came in little bit above expectations. It has been sliding over the last two to three months, and the fact that it has stabilised a bit is a positive for the market more broadly," said Damien Hennessy of Heuristic Investment Systems.

Gains in the consumer sector were driven by a 4 per cent rise in the shares of gaming machine maker Aristocrat Leisure. The company reported solid half-year earnings last week driven by growth in overseas markets.

Industrials were supported by a one per cent rise in toll road developer Transurban Group.

Australia's big banks, whose earnings outlook remains pressured by regulatory challenges, saw temporary respite in the previous session after the Australian government delayed the start date of the first payment of its new bank levy by three months.

The 'Big Four' banks held their gains, rising in a range of one per cent to 1.3 per cent. Macquarie Group, Australia's fifth biggest bank, was 1.8 per cent higher.

Mining majors BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were off 0.7 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively, while iron-ore miner Fortescue Metals Group lost 0.6 per cent.

The most-active iron ore contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange dropped as much as 3.2 per cent to be down around 30 per cent since mid-March.

Nonetheless performance of manufacturing figures showed China's steel industry expanding at its fastest pace in a year in May.

The ASX's energy index shed 0.8 per cent on lower oil prices as rising output from Libya added to concerns about increasing US production undermining Opec-led output cuts.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was marginally lower at 7,405.74 as losses in consumer stocks outweighed gains in financials.

Building materials maker Fletcher Building Ltd was among the top losers on the main board, and single-handedly pulled the consumer sector lower.