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Australia: Shares reverse losses as higher oil, metals prices lift miners; NZ up

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended higher on Wednesday, reversing some of the losses made earlier in the day, after rising oil prices lifted mining giant BHP Billiton, while an uptick in base metals and gold supported stocks in those sectors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 per cent, or 35.5 points, to 5,875.4 at the close of trade.

Gains on the index were driven by BHP Billiton, which advanced 1.6 per cent after oil futures rose in Asian trading following a Reuters report on Saudi Arabia cutting supplies to the region.

Among other miners, Rio Tinto Ltd and Fortescue Metals Group climbed 2.1 per cent and 5.1 per cent respectively after Shanghai steel futures rose for a third straight day on Wednesday, supported by worries over tighter supply.

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Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources rose 1.9 per cent and 4.1 per cent respectively after gold prices edged up from an eight-week low.

The financial index added on 0.2 per cent as investors pondered a new levy imposed on Australia's biggest banks by the government in its budget proposals unveiled late on Tuesday. "I think there is a little bit of technical buying in there... People have moved past yesterday's lows and are increasing their exposure towards the banking sector," said Chris Weston, an institutional dealer at IG Markets.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged up 0.2 per cent, or 12.08 points to finish the session at 7,424.2.

The consumer staples sector led the gains after news Zealand's electronic retail card spending rose 1.1 per cent in April, while overall sales rose 4.5 per cent from the same month a year ago.

Heartland Bank was the biggest gainer on the index, advancing 3.4 per cent to hit a record closing high.