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Australia shares track oil higher; NZ edges up


[BENGALURU] Australian shares continued to move higher after Christmas to touch their highest since January 2008 on Wednesday as oil and gold prices rose.

Oil prices surged to 2-1/2-year highs and US crude touched US$60 a barrel in light trade on Tuesday after an explosion on a Libyan pipeline while gold prices edged up to a more than three-week high on support from a weaker dollar.

"I think the most present influence on our markets is really the oil prices which has translated into the energy sector leading the market up. We have also seen decent support from materials sector, mining stocks," said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.3 per cent, or 17.1 points, higher to 6,086.8 by 0123 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.2 per cent on Friday. Australian markets were closed on Monday and Tuesday.

The biggest contributor to the benchmark's gains was lender Westpac Banking Corp which was trading as much as 0.8 per cent higher.

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BHP Billiton Ltd also rose as much as 0.9 per cent. BHP's petroleum segment is engaged in the exploration and production of oil and gas.

Meanwhile, BHP's peer Rio Tinto slipped as much as 0.6 per cent to its lowest in nearly two weeks.

The mining index rose to its highest in more than 3 1/2 years. A weaker US dollar generally raises the prices of dollar-based commodities such as a gold and oil.

"Oil is reacting I think to the specifics of the Libyan pipeline explosion while gold is being helped by just generally a softer US dollar. It is certainly possible we can see both those themes continue for the remainder of the week," added CMC Markets' Spooner.

Moving to other sectors, industrials such as Qantas Airways Ltd fell with the airline down as much as 3.2 per cent to its lowest since June 1.

Television broadcaster Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd fell as much as 4.6 per cent, the most in three months.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent, or 14.46 points, to 8,410.89 largely on gains made in healthcare and materials stocks.

Fletcher Building Ltd was the dominant contributor to the index's gain, taking it to its highest in more than a week.


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