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Australia shares rise for 5th day, NZ stocks near record high


[SYDNEY] Australian shares edged higher on Thursday, buoyed by positive job data, while New Zealand's market extended recent gains, hovering close to record highs.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 per cent, or 18.17 points, to 5406.7 by 0312 GMT. The benchmark has gained 3.4 per cent this week amid a global rebound in riskier assets, more than recouping its post-Brexit losses.

Thursday's cautious rally follows a welcome jump in full-time jobs, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, although the unemployment rate also rose.

"We've had five consecutive days of gains but the gains haven't been on anything solid, there's not a lot of conviction behind the actual moves and the market's probably running out of steam," said market analyst Tristan K'Nell at Altair Asset Management in Sydney.

"The resources sector has run really hard over the last couple of months, so there's no surprise to see a little bit of easing there. And although the employment data was just below headline numbers, it wasn't too bad. It was a good number in terms of full-time employment."

Shares in oil and gas explorer FAR Ltd slumped as much as 20 per cent before going on a trading halt, after Woodside Petroleum agreed to buy out ConocoPhillips' interests in oil discoveries off Senegal, where FAR is a stakeholder.

The price Woodside paid implied a value of A$0.07 for FAR, well below some analysts' estimates of the value of its stake.

Mining stocks backtracked on recent gains. BHP Billiton Ltd shares fell 1.5 per cent, Newcrest Mining Ltd shares lost 3 per cent and Rio Tinto Ltd stocks were down 1.4 per cent at lunchtime.

Financials extended recent gains, following the relection of Australia's conservative government, with National Australia Bank Ltd the biggest mover, adding 1.2 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched up 0.2 per cent or 12.88 points to 7,077.20.

Steel goods manufacturer Steel Tube led gains, rising 2.63 per cent.

A2 Milk rose 1.6 per cent and Air New Zealand was up 1.2 per cent.

Shares in Fonterra's fund, which provides investor exposure to the farmer-owned dairy exporter, rose 0.4 per cent after the co-operative announced its June operating figures and said exports to China and Latin America had strong growth.

Casino operator Sky City lost 0.6 per cent after it announced the resignation of a senior manager.