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Australia: Shares rise on materials; NZ falls about 1%

[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Wednesday on the back of gains in materials stocks as Dalian iron ore futures climbed after five consecutive sessions of declines.

Sentiment was also positive ahead of earnings results from some of the country's biggest lenders.

"The market is waiting on profit reports from National Australia Bank and Westpac, and there is probably some confidence on those being fairly clean results with a bit of upside, potentially," said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7 per cent, or 39.58 points, to 5,948.60 by 0023 GMT.

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It fell 0.2 per cent on Tuesday as manufacturing growth cooled more than expected in China, a key export market for Australian resources.

National Australia Bank Ltd rose as much as 0.6 per cent, while Westpac Banking Corp climbed as much as 0.5 per cent. NAB and Westpac are scheduled to announce their results on Thursday and Monday, respectively.

Among mining stocks, BHP Billiton rose up to 1.1 per cent, while iron ore major Rio Tinto gained as much as 0.9 per cent.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, which only mines iron ore, jumped 3.2 per cent.

Western Areas was the top gainer on the main index, up 7.2 per cent, as nickel closed at its highest since June 2015 in electronic trade on Tuesday.

The Australian mining index rose as much as 1.6 per cent on Wednesday, in its biggest intraday percentage gain in over two weeks.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 0.9 per cent, or 71.62 points, to 8,074.72, weighed down by falls in consumer staples.

Statistics New Zealand said on Wednesday the unemployment rate fell more than expected to 4.6 per cent in the third quarter.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast an unemployment rate of 4.7 per cent.

a2 Milk was the biggest drag on the index, shedding as much as 11.2 per cent, the most since Dec 2, 2016. Dairy peer Synlait Milk Ltd declined as much as 3.9 per cent.

Homebuilder Fletcher Building Ltd was the second biggest drag, losing as much as 4.4 per cent a day after the country's new prime minister said a ban on foreigners buying existing homes would begin in early 2018, but the restrictions would not apply to Australians.