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Australia: Shares rise as financials and resources jump; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares gained over half a per cent on Thursday, with financials surging ahead following days of losses, while investors flocked to material stocks as metal prices firmed.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 points to 6,184.3 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark added 0.3 per cent on Wednesday.

Materials stocks jumped 1.1 per cent, following a similar rise in the previous session when the sub-index closed 1.4 per cent higher.

Aluminium prices climbed to their highest in more than three months on Wednesday after Norsk Hydro said it would halt output at its Alunorte alumina refinery in Brazil, stoking concerns about shortages of the raw material.

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South32 and BHP were the biggest boosts to the benchmark, with South32's local coal assets getting interest from Johannesburg-listed Exxaro on top of rising aluminium prices.

South32 was up as much as 7.1 per cent, a record high.

BHP rose as much as 1.3 per cent to its highest in just over four years. The global miner said it sees a major boost in demand for copper as a result of China's Belt and Road Initiative.

Alumina was the biggest percentage gainer among miners, rising as much as 14.7 per cent to its highest in 10 years, before easing slightly.

"Commodities are holding up better now. It was the beaten- down sector in the last few months. There are people who are now dipping their toes into that sector again," said independent market strategist Greg McKenna.

Financials gained over 1 per cent, and is on track to end three sessions of losses after flirting with gains on Wednesday only to edge lower at the close.

Broad gains were led by the Big Four, with Westpac Banking Corp at the forefront, rising 1.2 per cent.

Rising US bond yields overnight supported financials on Wall Street, with a Federal Reserve rate hike in December seen as all but certain.

McKenna added that the rising interest rate environment mitigated local concerns over Australia's Royal Commission inquiry into financial services.

"A bank manages its balance sheet through variable home loans and variable deposits from clients, if you are managing liquidity, it will attract a higher interest rate."

The biggest percentage gainer among financials was Magellan Financial Group, which picked up as much 9.3 per cent after the fund manager said its chairman and chief executive would swap roles.

Energy stocks were supported by oil prices perched around four-year highs, with Woodside Petroleum up 1.3 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index looked set to extend its losses for a fourth consecutive session, with the index down 0.3 per cent to 9,264.30.

Index heavyweights a2 Milk Company and Auckland International Airport fell 2.7 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively.

AFP