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Australian shares cheered by households' wealth surge; NZ up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose for a third-straight day on Thursday, boosted by strength in financial and consumer stocks after data showed households' net worth rose to a record high, boding well for spending in the face of tepid growth.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 per cent, or 22.68 points, to 5,896.20, its highest close since April 2015. The 5,900 level hasn't been breached in almost two years.

The market has been supported by improving global growth prospects, a steadying in Australia's major trading partner China as well as on expectations of a stimulus-boost for the US economy under US President Donald Trump.

While global markets wobbled this week on Mr Trump's stumble on a key healthcare reform bill, Australian stocks have held their own on the back of upbeat domestic news.

On Thursday, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed households saw their wealth balloon to a record A$11.7 trillion (S$12.495 trillion) last quarter as cash holdings topped a trillion Australian dollars for the first time ever.

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This accumulation of wealth is a major reason the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) considers household balance sheets to be in good repair overall and augurs well for consumer spending.

Retail giant Wesfarmers Ltd rose 1.4 per cent to touch a more than five-month closing high while Woolworths Ltd climbed 1.3 per cent.

Elsewhere, banks extended their bull run driven by optimism over earnings for the financial sector. National Australia Bank ended 0.8 per cent higher to hit a 20-month closing high.

The benchmark has posted 16 new 52-week highs and no new lows.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index advanced 0.5 per cent or 35.54 points to finish the session at 7,169.11 points.

Telecom stocks accounted for most of the gains.

Xero Ltd was the biggest percentage gainer, rising three per cent. The accounting software firm said it recently surpassed one million subscribers on its global cloud accounting platform, doubling subscriber numbers in less than two years.


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