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Australia shares up on Wall Street lift, energy sector; NZ steady

[SYDNEY] Australia shares advanced on Thursday, cheered by strength on Wall Street with the energy sector taking the lead from a rally in their US peers, while global miner Rio Tinto jumped after it increased its coal reserve estimate.

Receding tensions on the Korean peninsula also supported the benchmark index, which rose 0.3 per cent, or 16.37 points, to 5,706.10 by 0228 GMT, recovering from the previous day's 0.3 per cent loss.

Shares on Wall Street were boosted by news that US President Donald Trump sided with Democrats over his fellow Republicans and agreed to pass an extension of the US debt limit until Dec 15, potentially avoiding an unprecedented default on US government debt.

"The markets are recovering from initial concerns created by the Korean bomb test over the weekend and are responding to Wall Street's lead with some buying interest," said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC markets.

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The energy sector rode on the coattails of its US counterparts, backed by an overnight rise in oil prices.

Oil and gas heavyweights Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search Ltd were up 0.7 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively. Utility stock Origin Energy was 0.5 per cent higher, while its larger peer AGL Energy jumped 2.7 per cent.

Rio Tinto was the main attraction in an otherwise sluggish mining sector. Its shares rose 1.2 per cent to a six-month high after the world's second-biggest miner increased the estimate of coal reserves by 50 per cent at its 80 per cent owned Kestrel mine in Queensland.

Rival BHP shares, which traded ex-dividend, fell over one per cent.

The financial sector, which was under pressure all week as its biggest constituent Commonwealth Bank of Australia struggled with a money-laundering scandal, was about 0.2 per cent higher.

CBA, which had slumped close to a nine month low on Wednesday, gained 0.6 per cent. Its 'Big Four' peers Westpac and National Australia Bank were also among the top advancers , up 0.6 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index tacked on 0.1 per cent to 7,799.25, supported by consumer and healthcare shares.

Dairy products maker a2 Milk Company rose 1.4 per cent while medical devices maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was up 1.8 per cent to a record high.

Gains on the main board, however, were capped by losses in industrials and utilities shares.

Air New Zealand shares were the biggest drag on the index with a 2.6 per cent decline.

REUTERS