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Australia: Shares up on materials stocks, snapping 3 days of losses


[SYDNEY] Australian shares rose on Thursday, snapping three straight days of losses, buoyed by the materials sector and gains from miner BHP Billiton.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.4 per cent, or 23.49 points, at 5,708.

BHP Billiton ended more than 1 per cent higher, driven by gains in oil and copper prices.

Oil prices recovered from losses chalked up the session before, though the market remained under pressure as bloated US crude inventories dampen OPEC-led efforts to curb global production.

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Copper also recorded some gains, holding above two-week lows hit the previous session, due to a revival of investor sentiment.

The market also found support from new bilateral agreements on beef exports, energy and security, which were expected to be signed between Australia and China during a four-day visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched up 0.02 per cent, or 1.72 points, to finish the session at 7,062.55.

New Zealand's central bank stuck firmly to its stance of keeping interest rates at a record low of 1.75 per cent at its meeting on Thursday and reiterated that it would stay on hold for a "considerable" period of time.

Gains in utilities and consumer staples were offset by declines in materials.

New Zealand's largest-listed construction company Fletcher Building Ltd was the biggest drag on the benchmark, falling 5 per cent to close at an 11-month low. The company has posted losses in three of the last four sessions after it cut its earnings guidance on Monday.