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Australia shares post 7th day of gains; NZ also up

[BENGALURA] Australian shares trimmed early gains but still ended higher for a seventh straight session on Thursday, largely shrugging off data which showed China's economic growth eased slightly in the third quarter.

Markets are more focused on whether Wall Street can continue its record-breaking run, which is boosting investors' risk appetite for equities globally.

US President Donald Trump's drive to overhaul the US tax code headed for a pivotal moment on Thursday, with Senate Republicans poised to approve a budget measure that would help them pass tax legislation without Democratic support.

The Senate is expected to vote on the budget resolution on Thursday.

"The market is still worried about what is potentially coming out of the United States, we've had a huge run... and we're seeing a bit of profit taking ahead of that," said Mathan Somasundaram, a market portfolio strategist with Blue Ocean Equities.

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The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.1 per cent higher, or 5.623 points, at 5,896.1. The benchmark ended little changed on Wednesday.

The financial index rose 0.5 per cent, with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd up 0.8 per cent and National Australia Bank Ltd ending flat.

Data from the country's biggest export market, China showed that its economic growth cooled slightly to 6.8 per cent in the third quarter year-on-year, which had been widely expected.

Industrial output in September was stronger-than-expected, however.

Still, prices of steelmaking commodities iron ore and coking coal fell sharply on Thursday, along with Shanghai Futures Exchange copper that slipped by 0.7 per cent.

Beijing has ordered some steel mills, smelters and factories in norther parts of the country to reduce production or shut altogether in coming months in its toughest action yet to reduce winter air pollution. That is expected to reduce its demand for raw materials but has raised worries about shortages of finished products, triggering wild swings in resources prices.

BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd ended down 2.3 per cent and 2.5 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained 0.1 per cent or 9.05 points to finish at 8,124.07.

Investors were awaiting an announcement from the small New Zealand First Party later in the day on which major party it will support to form a coalition government, ending weeks of political limbo that have hurt the currency and business sentiment.

New Zealand First subsequently said it would throw its support behind the opposition Labour Party.

The telecom services sector led the gains on the index with Spark New Zealand Ltd ending 3 per cent higher.


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