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Australia shares rise as US-China trade war fears ease; NZ lower

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares joined the positive turn in global sentiment after fears of an all-out trade war abated, with the United States expressing a willingness to negotiate after China swiftly countered US tariffs with its own measures.

Wall Street ended with all three indices one per cent higher and investors turning their attention to corporate earnings.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 per cent, or 35.2 points to 5,796.6 at 0215 GMT. The benchmark had finished its previous session up 0.2 per cent.

"The lead from Wall Street is what has prompted some local buying today," said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.

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Mr Conway said that after China proposed its own new tariffs, market participants realised that the measures would not be in place for six months at least.

"It's all part of the negotiating process. So Wall Street looked past those trade discussions and our markets did as well," he said.

Banks led gains with the financial index rising 1.3 per cent as the 'Big Four' climbed. ANZ ended an eight-day run of losses and was up 1.7 per cent. Conway said ANZ had been getting towards being technically oversold.

Consumer stocks were well-bid with Treasury Wine Estates rising 2.4 per cent and Wesfarmers gaining 0.8 per cent. Data out on Wednesday showed that retail sales rose more than expected in March.

Commodity prices turned down with iron ore on the Dalian commodities exchange lower on Wednesday on worries of rising stock piles, while London copper closed 1.1 per cent lower.

Mining major BHP was down 0.3 per cent and rival Rio Tinto dropped 1.2 per cent while Fortescue Metals , the world's fourth-largest iron ore producer, was 2.4 per cent lower.

Gas and electricity company AGL Energy hit its lowest in a week, dipping 1.3 per cent a day after Australia's Prime Minister urged AGL to consider Alinta Energy's interest in buying AGL's old coal-burning Liddell power plant in New South Wales state.

MG Unit Trust, a listed funding vehicle for Australia's Murray Goulburn dairy co-operative, was 0.5 per cent lower ahead of a shareholder vote on a takeover offer from Canada's Saputo Inc.

The Australian competition regulator cleared the US$1 billion Saputo bid for Australia's largest dairy producer on Wednesday.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was 0.2 per cent, or 16.91 points, lower at 8,381.17, after two sessions of gains.

Healthcare stocks Fisher & Paykel and Ryman Healthcare were among the biggest drags, down 0.9 per cent each.

Telco Spark New Zealand weighed most on the index, down 2.2 per cent, hitting a near five-month low.

REUTERS