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Australia shares touch near 1-month high, NZ hits record

[SYDNEY] Australian shares rose to a near one-month high on Wednesday, led by miners and financial stocks and tracking a strong overnight lead from Wall Street, while a number of large stocks benefitted from foreign buying after the local dollar rose.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 32.19 points or 0.6 per cent to 5,770.6 by 0021 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.02 per cent on Tuesday.

"It's predominantly a currency trade, we've had the US dollar come off and the Aussie dollar is trading up... Global investors are buying into the Aussie exposure," said Mathan Somasundaram, a market portfolio strategist with Blue Ocean Equities.

Wall Street ended on Tuesday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average hitting a record high, while the US dollar fell against a basket of currencies.

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The Australian dollar was up about 0.2 per cent against the US dollar as at 0021 GMT.

Australian financials mirrored their US peers, with the financial index hitting its highest since mid-August. Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank Ltd were among the top contributors to the rise, gaining about 0.9 per cent apiece.

"Global investors generally buy into the large caps, which is dominated by the banks, miners and the staples," added Mr Somasundaram.

Financials were the best performing stocks on the benchmark index.

Materials stocks were also higher, with index heavyweights BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd edging up a notch.

The Australian metals and mining index rose about 0.2 per cent.

Oil prices rose about 2 per cent on Saudi Arabian export cuts in November, while gold prices hit a near two-week high on a softer US dollar and geopolitical tensions across the globe.

Consumer discretionary stocks also gained, with gaming machines maker Aristocrat Leisure Ltd hitting a more than three-month high, while Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd gained nearly 4 per cent.

A survey of 1,200 people by the Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank published on Wednesday found consumer sentiment climbed 3.6 per cent in October, on top of a 2.5 per cent rise the month before.

Meanwhile, New Zealand shares touched a record intraday high for a fifth consecutive session, on track for their best streak of gains since May this year.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent or 13.8 points to 8,051.6.

Information technology stocks and consumer staples were the best performers, with accounting software developer Xero Ltd at a more than three-year high, while a2 Milk Company Ltd hit a record high.

REUTERS