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Australian shares close near 3-week high after Wall St rally; NZ rises

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed higher on Thursday boosted by financial stocks, riding a wave of relief on Wall Street which rallied as US midterm election results came in largely as expected.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.53 per cent or 31.3 points up at 5,928.200, near a three-week high.

Gains were driven by financial stocks which rose 1 per cent. Top gainers were Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd which closed 1.8 per cent and 2 per cent higher, respectively.

Australia's banking regulator said on Thursday it wants to raise the amount of spare cash banks carry to withstand any future financial shock, adding to pressure on a sector already embarrassed by a public inquiry that exposed widespread misconduct in the financial industry.

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Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut, said the higher cash requirement had been expected and was already priced into banks' share prices.

Aussie healthcare sector, which has high exposure to US markets, rose 1.2 per cent with index heavyweight CSL Ltd gaining 1.3 per cent while Cochlear Ltd edged up 1.1 per cent.

Noting US President Donald Trump's criticism of the US healthcare sector and pharmaceutical companies' pricing, Mr Rooney expected better export prospects for healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, as US President Donald Trump's criticism of their pricing appeared less of a risk now that his Republicans had lost control of the House.

"It probably takes a little bit of pressure off the healthcare sector. Most of our pharmaceutical companies look to export into their market, I think that's the main reason we're up," Mr Rooney said.

Gains in Wall Street were led by healthcare stocks, among others.

Metals and mining stocks were marginally lower, capping gains on the benchmark, as weak steel and iron prices weighed following Beijing's move to relax curbs on production during winter.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.47 per cent or 41.22 points to finish the session at 8,896.01, its highest close in three weeks.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd closed 1.6 per cent higher.

REUTERS