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Australian shares end at 2-week high after Fed chair's 'dovish' comments; NZ rises

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed at a two-week high on Thursday, tracking a Wall Street rally, after dovish-sounding comments from US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell boosted risk-sensitive assets.

Mr Powell said on Wednesday the central bank's policy rate is now "just below" estimates of neutral where it neither stimulates nor slows the economy, suggesting the Fed's tightening cycle might end soon.

The move boosted Asian shares, though ongoing concerns about the upcoming meeting of US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit undermined some of the optimism.

Broad-based gains pushed the S&P/ASX 200 index 0.6 per cent or 33.30 points higher to 5,758.40 at the close of trade. The benchmark edged lower on Wednesday.

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The metals and mining stocks rose 1.3 per cent, dominating the gains on the main index.

Rio Tinto Ltd rose 1.7 per cent, after it announced approval for the US$2.6 billion "intelligent" iron ore mine in Western Australia, while BHP Group gained 1.21 per cent.

An overnight jump in Chinese ore futures after a three-day slide, and buoyant London copper prices, also cheered the miners.

Financial stocks ended at their highest in more than two weeks as an enquiry into financial sector misconduct held its final hearings after a year of damning revelations.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia firmed 0.5 per cent, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group strengthened 0.7 per cent.

Australia's information technology sector, followed its US counterpart to rise 2.8 per cent to a near two-week high.

Payment services provider Afterpay Touch Group Ltd surged 8.7 per cent and was the top per centage gainer on the ASX 200.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.93 per cent or 80.92 points to finish at 8,794.88, posting a third consecutive session of gains.

Consumer and industrial stocks led the gains, with mobile commerce operator Pushpay Holdings Ltd climbing 5.3 per cent to a near three-week high and Sky Network Television Ltd gained 4 per cent.

REUTERS