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Australia shares up on rally in oil; NZ down

41086074 - 09_01_2017 - AUSTRALIA STOCK MARKET.jpg

[BENGALURU] Materials, energy and financials lifted Australian shares on Thursday after a weakened US dollar drove up oil prices by the most in more than a month.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.3 per cent or 20 points to 5,791 by 0115 GMT. The benchmark closed 0.2 per cent higher on Wednesday.

"The reason that the Australian market is higher is because of its commodities exposures, another gain for gold and a very strong gain for oil are two of the key features supporting the market today," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Oil prices jumped more than 2.5 per cent on Wednesday following two straight sessions of losses after the US dollar fell on disappointment with President-elect Donald Trump's media conference, and on news that Saudi Arabia trimmed supplies to some Asian buyers.

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Oil and gas giant Woodside Petroleum was up as much as 1.5 per cent to its highest in 15 months while Santos Ltd gained 1.2 per cent.

After Mr Trump's much-anticipated news briefing failed to provide clarity on expected stimulus plans, the US dollar fell sharply to one-month lows, pushing gold to a seven-week high on Wednesday.

"It's a very unpredictable time, once again markets were disappointed by the lack of detail around stimulus plans in last night's press conference," said Mr McCarthy.

Gold miner Northern Star Resources Ltd rose 0.5 per cent, extending gains into a third day.

Sentiment was also boosted by Chinese steel and iron ore futures gaining for a third session on Wednesday and hitting their highest level in three weeks.

Global miner Rio Tinto climbed as much as 1.7 per cent to its highest since Dec 12, while BHP Billiton gained 1.3 per cent, extending gains into a second day.

The metals and mining index rose as much as 1.3 per cent, hitting its highest since Sept 19, 2014.

Financials was up with the "Big Four" banks gaining between 0.2 per cent and 0.5 per cent.

Qantas Airways Ltd was among the biggest gainers in the index, rising as much as 5 per cent to hit a four-month high.

Bucking the trend, healthcare sector declined after US Trump said pharmaceutical companies were "getting away with murder" in the prices they charged the government for medicines.

Australia's biggest pharmaceuticals company by market cap CSL Ltd slid as much 1.6 per cent, posting its biggest intraday percentage loss in a month.

Organic baby formula maker Bellamy's Australia Ltd was the biggest loser on the benchmark, falling 15.5 per cent after it cut its revenue forecast and appointed a temporary new CEO.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index declined 0.3 per cent or 18.5 points to 7,069, ending a three-session run of gains.

Telecommunications was the biggest drag on the index with Spark New Zealand Ltd shedding as much as 2.8 per cent to post its biggest intraday percentage loss since Dec 9, 2016.