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Australian shares end at 10-year high; NZ eases off record

[BENGALURU] Australian shares marked a 10-year peak and rallied to end their fourth session higher on Monday, helped higher by banking stocks and as positive cues from Wall Street backed buying sentiment.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq clocked their best week in more than a year on Friday as technology stocks buoyed major indices to records.

The nation's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index ended the session 0.1 per cent higher. The index rose 0.7 per cent on Friday.

Financials accounted for the majority of gains on the index, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, the top drivers of the index, adding 0.6 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively.

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Real estate and healthcare stocks were also in demand, with DEXUS Property Group gaining the most in nearly a month and healthcare giant CSL Ltd climbing 0.4 per cent.

Insurer Suncorp Group dampened the cheer, slacking 1.3 per cent to its lowest in over two months after it booked a A$160 million (S$167 million) to A$170 million hit to its half-year earnings due to a hailstorm that struck Melbourne in December.

Miners also traded in the red after global commodity prices eased off a recent rally. Australia flagged a possible 20 per cent slide in iron ore prices this year from 2017, depressing mining stocks further.

Global miner BHP Billiton and iron ore explorer Fortescue Metals Group lost 0.1 per cent and 2.2 per cent each. Gold miner Newcrest Mining shed 0.7 per cent.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index, which inched higher to a record earlier in the day, retreated to close 0.4 per cent lower.

The index snapped a three-session gain streak, pulled down by healthcare and material stocks.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd and construction company Fletcher Building Ltd were the biggest drags on the index, losing 1.2 per cent and 1.5 per cent each.

REUTERS