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Australia shares up slightly on support from materials; NZ gain

[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged up on Friday, with material stocks and consumer staples supporting a market looking out for fresh catalysts.

Backed by modest gains on Wall Street, the S&P/ASX 200 index added 0.11 per cent, or 6.015 points, to 5,676.4 by 0319 GMT, but dipped for a fifth straight monthly session. The benchmark rose 0.11 per cent on Thursday.

"Today's one of the days when there is not a lot of news around, the leads haven't been that strong. We're just tweaking a bit around the edges, volumes are okay, but there is no real story to tell," said Chris Weston, an institutional dealer with IG Markets.

Material stocks were underpinned by London copper rising for a third session on Friday, helped by expectations of strong demand in China, Australia's major export market.

Heavyweights BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd rose as much as 1.3 per cent and 1.6 per cent, respectively.

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"The rise in nickel and copper prices would be helping materials, but I think there is a rotation in sentiment out of financial stocks. Money is being moved from them to mining stocks," said Mr Weston.

Financial stocks slipped as much as 0.8 per cent, with the "Big Four" banks losing between 0.1 per cent and 0.5 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index, however, edged higher, up 0.118 per cent, or 9.34 points to 7,922.96, led by healthcare and information technology stocks.

The index has pulled ahead this week, brushing aside political uncertainty from an inconclusive national election, and is on track for a ninth straight monthly streak of wins.

"The market doesn't seem overly concerned about which way the coalition might be formed," said Grant Williamson, investment adviser at Christchurch-based Hamilton Hindin Greene.

"Another factor is one of our largest companies a2 Milk is doing extremely well at the moment, and that's pushing the index higher."

New Zealand dairy company A2 Milk said on Thursday it had successfully registered its infant formula, processed by partner firm Synlait, in China.

A2 Milk shares slipped 2.1 per cent, after four straight sessions of gains, but has added over 200 per cent so far this year.

In a report released on Friday, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand said the country's financial system is on "sound footing" but risks sill remained in its previously red-hot housing market.

"That (RBNZ report) just underpinned the solidness of the economy. We're also seeing a fair degree of foreign buying interest in the local market," Mr Williamson said.


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