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Australia shares rise for 4th straight day, led by resources, financials

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose for a fourth consecutive day on Friday, scaling fresh two-month peaks as renewed hopes for progress in resolving the US-China trade war boosted risk appetites.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.5 per cent or 29.5 points up at 5,879.60, advancing 1.8 per cent for the week, its second consecutive weekly gain. The benchmark had risen 0.3 per cent on Thursday.

The US stocks rallied after The Wall Street Journal reported that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed lifting some or all tariffs imposed on Chinese imports and suggested offering a tariff rollback during talks scheduled for Jan 30.

The Wall Street shares pared some of those gains after a Treasury spokesman told CNBC that Mr Mnuchin had not made any such recommendations.

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However, even the whiff of progress in the trade war helped boost sentiment, with Australia gaining along with its Asian peers.

Financial stocks, which account for nearly half the benchmark, advanced for a fifth session, climbing.

All the "Big Four" banks firmed between 0.3 per cent to 0.6 per cent, with biggest lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia gaining the most.

The metals and mining sector rose 0.7 per cent and had its highest close since Oct 5.

London copper prices rose for a fourth straight session, hitting their highest level this year, and prices of steel and steel-making raw materials in China firmed with iron ore climbing to a more than 10-month peak.

Mining giant and index heavyweight Rio Tinto gained 0.3 per cent after its 2018 iron ore shipments from Australia's Pilbara region rose 2 per cent and it set a higher target for 2019.

BHP Group gained 0.7 per cent. It will report second-quarter production next week, as will oil and gas players Oil Search and Santos. Resource stocks are the second largest sector on the benchmark.

The ASX Information Technology sub-index closed 1.7 per cent higher with Afterpay Touch Group logging a 13 per cent surge as the payment service provider's underlying sales in the first half topped A$2.2 billion.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index advanced for the third straight session, ending 0.2 per cent or 19.90 points higher at 9,097.71. It rose 1.5 per cent this week.

Software billing firm Gentrack Group Ltd and entertainment company Sky TV were the benchmark's top per centage gainers on the benchmark, both putting on more than 2 per cent.

REUTERS