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Australia shares rise as ANZ profit beats expectations; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Wednesday, with the index buoyed by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group's first-half profit beating expectations and energy stocks recouping losses from the previous session.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.7 per cent or 41.6 points to 6,367.10 by 0118 GMT, reversing Tuesday's 0.5 per cent decline.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group posted a 2 per cent rise in first-half cash profit, helped by lower operating expenses and credit impairment charges, despite tighter lending and lower home loan demand shrinking margins.

"While credit growth has obviously weighed on ANZ's profitability, the numbers themselves have been fairly positive. ANZ is sticking out as one of the better banks to own in Australia at the moment," said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone brokerage.

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Shares of Australia's third largest lender ANZ rose as much as 3.5 per cent to the highest since March 4.

Shares of the other "Big Four" banks rose in a range of 1.2 per cent to 2.9 per cent.

Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting the "Big Four" lenders to show weak revenue trends and rising costs, driven by billions of dollars in remediation for wronged customers.

ANZ, the first among them to report first half earnings, recognised customer remediation charges of A$100 million in the March 2019 half.

National Australia Bank is scheduled to report its half year earnings on Thursday.

Meanwhile, energy stocks rebounded from a four day losing streak to rise more than one per cent. Worley Parsons and Origin Energy were the top gainers on the subindex.

An uptick in commodity prices helped shares of global miner BHP Group and rival Rio Tinto to advance 0.3 per cent and 0.5 per cent, respectively.

Investor sentiment was cautiously optimistic ahead of the US Federal Reserve policy announcement on Wednesday, when it is expected to hold interest rates steady.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4 per cent or 40.03 points to 9,973.89 after data showed a 0.2 per cent fall in employment in the first quarter.

The decline in the employment rate reflected a fall in the number of people employed and a rise in the working-age population, Statistics New Zealand said in a statement.

New Zealand-listed shares of A2 Milk Company dropped 1.9 per cent while shares of Ryman Healthcare shed 0.7 per cent.

REUTERS