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Australian shares edge up on banks, materials; NZ little changed

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[BENGALURU]  Australian shares edged higher on Thursday, snapping four straight sessions of fall, on the back of gains in banks, while a recovery in commodity prices spurred demand for materials.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.3 per cent, or 19.5 points, higher at 6,215.4, after shedding 1.70 points on Wednesday.

Financials closed higher after a weak start and led the gains on the benchmark index.

Financials rose because the Australian market is largely yield- and dividend-driven, said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

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Investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd was among the biggest boosts with a jump of 3.7 per cent, while the country's "Big Four" climbed between 0.6 per cent and 0.9 per cent.

BHP, the world's biggest miner, rose 1.8 per cent and dominated the gains on the benchmark, bolstered by a recovery in copper prices and rise in iron ore futures.

Other blue chips in the sector also firmed, with Rio Tinto Ltd climbing 1.2 per cent, while Newcrest Mining Ltd strengthened 1.9 per cent to a more than six-week high, boosted by higher gold prices.

Shares of oil-focused firms also climbed, helped by overnight gains in Brent prices.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd rose 1.8 per cent to a three-year high, while Origin Energy Ltd climbed 1.3 per cent.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ticked up 2.27 points to 8,998.79.

Utilities led the gains, with Contact Energy Ltd rising 1.2 per cent, while Spark New Zealand Ltd firmed 0.5 per cent.

REUTERS