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Australia shares rise on hopes for easing US-China dispute; NZ up too

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares advanced on Wednesday, tracking most global markets on hopes for progress in resolving the trade war between China and the United States.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.6 percentage or 30.60 points to 5,605.40 at 0044 GMT.

The healthcare segment was the strongest for a second straight session, with the index up to 1.6 per cent in early trade before gains were pared. Sigma Healthcare, up over 3 percent, was the best performer.

European shares closed higher on Tuesday and Wall Street ended marginally lower after a report that China is moving to cut import tariffs on American-made cars.

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That report came after Chinese Vice Premier Liu He exchanged views on the next stage of trade talks with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

In an interview with Reuters, US President Donald Trump said talks were taking place with Beijing by phone and he would not raise tariffs on Chinese imports until he was sure about a deal.

But the US-China rift remains a key risk.

"People are more confident as China and the US are talking, but they are still not convinced that a resolution would be possible within the stipulated 90-day period. That is a handbrake on positivity," said Greg McKenna, founder of consultancy McKenna Macro in Sydney.

Energy stocks had gains in morning trade. Oil and gas explorers Beach Energy climbed as much as 2.9 per cent and Santos 2.2 per cent.

Metals and mining stocks, except gold ones, advanced as prices of copper and most other base metals edged higher.

Heavyweights BHP Group and Rio Tinto put on as much as 1.1 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively.

Gold stocks came under pressure after a six-session run of gains. Biggies Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining fell more than 2 per cent and 1 per cent, respectively.

Financial stocks moved up with the Big Four banks - the top lenders - all strengthening.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose as much as 0.83 per cent, its biggest intraday percentage gain in nearly two weeks.

Major online marketplace Trade Me Group boosted the benchmark, rising as much as 4.3 per cent to a record high after agreeing to be acquired by a British private equity firm for NZ$2.56 billion (S$2.42 billion).

REUTERS