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Australia: Shares rise, helped by financials; NZ higher too

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares advanced on Friday after good earnings results, and investors took in their stride that Commonwealth Bank of Australia admitted "in part" to some claims against it by the country's financial intelligence agency.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.6 per cent, or 34.4 points, to 5,985.3 at 0102 GMT. The benchmark, which gained 0.1 per cent on Thursday, reached its highest point since Feb 6 with help from materials and financials.

One of the contributors to the index's rise was CBA , which climbed as much as 0.6 per cent after denying most of the 100 additional claims made against it in a lawsuit by authorities alleging breaches of anti-money laundering laws.

Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities, said CBA "will take partial blame, put up a number, do the deal and move on... the number will be something irrelevant when you look at their profit figure, it is a one-off".

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The benchmark's top gainer was data centre operator NEXTDC Ltd, up as much as 20.9 per cent to an all-time high after reporting a jump in half-year core earnings.

Global miner BHP was 1.4 per cent higher as it recovered for a second day, after falling for the week through Wednesday. Rio Tinto Ltd gained as much as 1.4 per cent, after Chinese iron ore prices ticked up.

Energy stocks edged up 0.7 per cent, after Brent crude futures settled up about 1.5 per cent, boosted by a surprise draw in US crude inventories and a drop in the dollar.

Fuel supplier Caltex Australia, rose as much as 1.9 per cent, making it the sectoral index's top contributor. Litigation financier IMF Bentham slumped as much as 16.4 per cent, the most in more than 8-1/2 years, after reporting a half year attributable loss.

Consumer staples fell on Friday. Woolworths Group Ltd slid as much as 3.3 per cent after reporting an increase in half-year profit of about 15 per cent.

"Woolworths at the moment is being priced as a growth story when it is a turnaround story. There is a catch up from optimism to reality," said Blue Ocean Equities' Somasundaram.

In New Zealand, health care stocks and industrials supported the S&P/NZX 50 index, which rose 0.4 per cent, or 29.42 points, to 8,296.3.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation gained as much as 1.6 per cent.

a2 Milk Company Ltd fell as much as 4.6 per cent, after hitting record highs for two consecutive days after reporting a record half-year profit, due to Chinese demand.

REUTERS