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Australia: Shares track regional gains after Federal Reserve cut; New Zealand up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares inched up on Thursday, mirroring regional gains after the U.S. Federal Reserve lowered interest rates as expected, but offered mixed signals on their next move, nudging markets to step cautiously.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7 per cent or 48.2 points to 6,729.80 by 0252 GMT. The benchmark shed 0.2 per cent on Wednesday.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank was prepared to be "aggressive" if necessary, but signalled a higher bar to further reductions, which would be based on data and the health of the economy.

"The US Fed is moving just a little and is taking precautions, because if they move too quickly, they could have consequences the other way," said Doug Symes, senior client adviser at Novus Capital. "And because of the conservative rhetoric, it leaves the market second guessing whether rates cuts have finished."

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The Australian benchmark was helped by a near 1 per cent gain in the finiancial sub-index, with the "big four" banks all trading higher.

Investment bank Macquarie Group, which has a US-revenue base, rose about 1.5 per cent to its highest level since May 2.

Energy stocks recouped losses from the previous session and firmed about 0.2 per cent as heightened Middle East tensions kept oil prices elevated after the attacks on refineries in Saudi Arabia.

Oil and gas heavyweights Santos and Oil Search each rose about 0.4 per cent.

In the technology sector, the subindex was boosted by a 4 per cent rise in software company Altium and Wisetech's near 2 per cent climb.

Bucking the trend, the mining sector was dragged lower by gold stocks, after the precious metal's prices fell in light of the US Fed's mixed signals, with gold explorers Silver Lake Resources and Saracen Mineral as top losers.

Miners were also hit by lower iron ore, which were dragged lower by increasing supply in China, while copper prices slipped as concern about demand and economic growth dominated sentiment.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index advanced 0.1 per cent, or 15.1 points, to 10,789.99.

Fuel distributor Z Energy climbed as much as 5.6 per cent in its best session since late April, 2016, while NZX rose as much as 1.6 per cent.

REUTERS