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Australian shares edge up on Fed rate signal; NZ hits new peak

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares climbed on Thursday buoyed by broad-based gains after Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell cemented the chance of an ease in US monetary policy later this month.

The S&P/ASX 200 index advanced 0.4 per cent, or 26.3 points, to 6,716.1 at the close of trade. The benchmark added 0.4 per cent on Wednesday.

In his testimony before Congress, Mr Powell on Wednesday said "that uncertainties around trade tensions and concerns about the strength of the global economy continue to weigh on the US outlook".

"Fed chair Powell just about signed and sealed an imminent Fed cut at the semiannual monetary policy report overnight," DBS Group Research said in a note to clients.

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The remarks boosted gold prices, increasing buying interest in miners of the precious metal which ended the session at a more than seven-and-a-half year high.

Resolute Mining Ltd had its best day since March 2, 2017 and was the top performer on the benchmark.

The wider mining index also advanced, posting its sharpest gains in more than a week.

Meanwhile, strength in oil prices boosted energy stocks to their highest since July 2.

Financials stocks reversed from losses earlier in the session to edge higher.

No 4 lender National Australia Bank Ltd firmed 1 per cent to a more than four-week peak.

However, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd finished the session at an eight-week low.

Both lenders along with Westpac Banking Corp have been slapped with tougher capital requirements by the country's prudential regulator. 

Elsewhere, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index firmed 0.4 per cent, or 37.18 points, to finish at a record close of 10,687.32.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd strengthened to a more than two-month high. 

REUTERS