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Australian shares close higher as financials lead charge; NZ up

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[BENGALURU] Financials helped drive Australian shares higher on Tuesday, the same day the country's central bank kept rates unchanged in a widely expected decision.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 0.5 per cent to close at 6,210.2. The benchmark had fallen 0.3 per cent on Monday.

Late into the session, the Reserve Bank of Australia said it kept its cash rate at 1.5 per cent, an accommodative stance that policymakers have signalled will continue for some time to come.

Financial stocks saw healthy gains over the session, following a somewhat subdued start, with the main financial index rising close to 1 per cent.

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The so-called "Big Four" banks all traded in positive territory, up between 0.7 per cent and 1.8 per cent.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia led the gains, while Australia and New Zealand Banking snapped two sessions of heavy losses incurred after warning of continued difficult trading conditions in the foreseeable future.

Weaker commodity prices countered some of the improving sentiment in the rest of the market, prompting selling in material stocks as investors fretted over concerns of falling demand from China because of escalating Sino-US trade tensions.

Top miner BHP fell 1.6 per cent, while Rio Tinto slid 3 per cent to a near two-month low.

Healthcare stocks, which earn a substantial portion of their income in the United States and benefit from a weaker Aussie dollar, were the second biggest contributors to overall gains.

The Aussie dollar once again slipped to recent lows as global trade tensions manifested in weaker Chinese asset prices.

Index heavyweight biotherapeutics company CSL Ltd, climbed 1.7 per cent to an over one-week high.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1.2 per cent, or 111.12 points to finish the session at 9,053.59.

A2 Milk Company closed 3.2 per cent higher after Synlait Milk extended a supply agreement by two years for a2 Platinum infant formula and other products.

REUTERS