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Australian shares climb on likelihood of ECB, Fed rate cuts; NZ up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Tuesday as markets anticipate apex central banks in the European Union and the United States will lower interest rates, while rising oil prices propped up energy firms.

The S&P/ASX 200 index finished up 0.5 per cent, or 33.4 points, at 6,724.60. The benchmark was marginally down on Monday.

Investors are looking to policy decisions from global central banks, with the European Central Bank (ECB) seen cutting key rates by 10 basis points on Thursday and the US Federal Reserve expected to follow with a 25 basis trim a few days later.

The market is waiting to hear from the ECB as they will be a leading indicator about what the Fed will do, said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

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Humming along to the dovish tune, a top Reserve Bank of Australia official said on Tuesday that the central bank was ready to cut rates again "if needed". However, he added that a move to quantitative easing is highly unlikely.

Financials rose despite the Australian financial watchdog announcing on Tuesday its intention to prescribe stricter terms on executive pay policies of large banks.

Westpac Banking Corp added 0.3 per cent and National Australia Bank gained 1.1 per cent.

As oil prices edged higher on Tuesday amid lingering concerns about possible supply disruptions in the Middle East, the energy index gained 1.4 per cent.

Woodside Petroleum advanced 0.9 per cent and Oil Search rose 2.5 per cent.

Global miner BHP Group closed up 0.6 per cent as at least three Australian institutional investors are pushing for the firm to consider external candidates to replace Andrew Mackenzie as new CEO, Reuters sources said.

Peers Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group were down 0.4 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively, on falling iron ore prices.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index hit a record closing high, rising 0.39 per cent, or 42.56 points, to 10,867.25.

a2 Milk Company added 1.9 per cent and Auckland International Airport was up 0.3 per cent. 

REUTERS