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Australia shares rise on commodity prices; NZ up


[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Thursday as miners gained on rising commodity prices and financial stocks turned positive after two straight sessions of losses.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed points 0.6 per cent or 32.88 points to 5,698.60 by 0315 GMT. The benchmark closed 1.6 per cent lower on Wednesday.

Prices of iron ore futures rose on Wednesday, helping the most-traded iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange end 0.4 per cent higher, erasing early losses.

Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Ltd rose 1.3 per cent breaking a seven-day losing streak while BHP Billiton Ltd was up one per cent - recovering slightly from the 3.8 per cent loss it recorded on Wednesday.

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Gains in the financials sector also helped push the index higher after the 'Big Four" banks rose between 0.6 and 2 per cent.

"There has been some bargain-hunting in some of the biggest banks but the rally is unconvincing, I think we are still going to struggle to hold up much in the green today," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stock broking at Argonaut.

Westpac Banking Corp advanced the most among the major banks, climbing as much as 2.2 per cent after Credit Suisse upgraded the stock rating to "outperform" from "neutral".

"So far, Westpac Banking appears to be the key beneficiary of the industry's successful mortgage repricing," said Credit Suisse in a note.

Gold stocks topped the gainers on the index after gold prices climbed as an easing US dollar flattened US Treasury yields to their lowest in nearly a decade.

St Barbara Ltd, Resolute Mining Ltd and Evolution Mining Ltd advanced 5.2 per cent, 4.1 per cent and 3.8 per cent respectively.

Additionally, the rise in oil prices for the first time in three days after the fall in US crude and gasoline stockpiles, spurred some buying in the energy sector.

Australian fuel supplier Caltex Australia and power and gas retailer Origin Energy Ltd rose as much as 2 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 per cent or 28.20 points to 7,555.31.

Telecom and utilities stocks lead the gains on the index. Spark New Zealand Ltd was up 1.2 per cent while electricity retailer Contact Energy Ltd rose 2.1 per cent.

New Zealand's central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low of 1.75 per cent at its meeting on Thursday, and reiterated it would remain unchanged for a while yet.