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Australia shares rise slightly as US election nears; NZ extends gains


[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended marginally higher on Tuesday as gains in materials offset declines in financial stocks, with investors cautiously optimistic Democrat Hillary Clinton would win the US presidential election.

The S&P/ASX 200 index shed some early gains to end 0.13 per cent higher at 5,257.8.

Most polls show Mrs Clinton leading Republican rival Donald Trump by a tight margin.

Mrs Clinton, seen as the candidate more likely to maintain the status quo, saw her chances of winning improve after the FBI said no criminal charges were warranted against her over the use of a private email server.

Market voices on:

"The markets see greater chances of Clinton winning the election but there is no certainty, and if Trump won there would be a big risk-off move," said Ric Spooner, market strategist at CMC Markets.

The ASX 300 Metals and Mining Index closed up by nearly 2 per cent, hitting a 17-month high, propelled by a rise in metal prices.

Nickel miners Independence Group NL and Western Areas Ltd were among the top gainers on the metals index backed by a rise in nickel prices. CMNI3 BHP Billiton Ltd rose 2.6 per cent and was top contributor to both the benchmark and metals indexes.

Financials were the biggest drag on the index with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp falling 0.6 and 0.8 per cent respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index extended gains to a second session, rising 0.3 per cent to finish at 6,894.35.

Gains were led by industrials and telecom stocks, with Auckland International Airport Ltd and Spark New Zealand Ltd rising more than 1.4 per cent.