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Australia: Shares ride higher on miners; NZ subdued as Fletcher weighs

[BENGALURU] Australian shares pushed higher on Wednesday, led by miners, which rallied on robust metal prices, though a retreat of banking stocks' early gains and a slide in conglomerate Wesfarmers Ltd capped gains.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 11.99 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 5,909.6 at 0042 GMT, steaming into its 10th session of gains out of 11. The benchmark rose 0.1 per cent on Tuesday.

Global miner BHP Billiton, which also has a large exposure to oil, rose as much as 1.5 per cent, while aluminium producer South32 Ltd climbed 3.2 per cent, both stocks touching one-week highs.

Brent oil rose 1 per cent on Tuesday after top exporter Saudi Arabia said it was determined to end a supply glut, while aluminum prices closed up 0.8 per cent.

Australian financials pared early gains but remained mostly in positive territory. The "Big Four" banks rose in the range of 0.6 per cent to 1.1 per cent, before retreating to trade largely flat.

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"I think traders are probably holding off in the financial space for the time being considering that we are awaiting the release of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group's full year earnings tomorrow," said Kurt Mayell, Asian equity hedge analyst at CMC Markets Asia Pacific Pty Ltd.

The local dollar slipped after data showed Australian consumer prices rose by less than expected in the third quarter. Core inflation stayed below target for almost a second full year, making the chance of rate hike seem even more distant.

Wesfarmers, owner of the country's No. 2 grocery chain Coles, capped the gains on the index, tumbling 2.8 per cent in its biggest intra-day drop in over nine weeks after it reported a slowdown in its quarterly sales growth.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was little changed, dropping 0.75 points to 8,129.35 at 0042 GMT, after a 0.3 per cent slip early on, dragged by a 5.9 per cent drop in Fletcher Building Ltd.

The construction firm plunged to a three-month low after it said its 2018 financial year earnings would be hit by a NZ$160 million (S$150.4 million) loss from its building unit.

A2 Milk Company made up for some of the losses on the index, climbing as much as 2.7 per cent to a record high.

Meanwhile, prime minister-designate Jacinda Ardern said that New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters has been appointed as deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

Ms Ardern also said on Tuesday that the nation's new government plans to review and reform the Central Bank Act to possibly include employment, alongside inflation, as a target.

The government will strive to broaden the central bank's focus to include greater management of the local dollar's value against other currencies, Ms Ardern added.


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