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Australian shares end at over 10-1/2 year high on strong earnings; NZ up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed at a more than 10-1/2 year high on Wednesday, led by gains in biotherapeutics firm CSL and conglomerate Wesfarmers after both groups posted strong earnings.

The S&P/ASX 200 index firmed 0.5 per cent or 29.4 points to 6,329 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.8 per cent on Tuesday.

CSL Ltd, the country's fifth largest firm by market value, posted a near 30 per cent rise in annual net profit on Wednesday.

The news drove the drugmaker's shares 6.4 per cent higher to their highest close, which helped push the wider healthcare sector index to a record high.

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Meanwhile, Wesfarmers Ltd posted record earnings in its core divisions, sending its shares 3.2 per cent higher to a record.

Elsewhere, top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Insurance Australia Group Ltd slumped, capping gains in the benchmark.

Shares of CBA, which traded ex-dividend, declined 2.5 per cent, also dragging the benchmark.

Insurance Australia Group dipped 5.8 per cent to a near four-month low after the insurer flagged a subdued earnings outlook and reported a modest rise in full-year profit, driven by lower investment income.

Materials stocks also accumulated losses, underpinned by lower base metals prices and a fall in Chinese iron ore futures.

Global miner BHP slipped 0.4 per cent, while its spin-off South32 Ltd tumbled 3.7 per cent.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent or 15.55 points to finish the session at 8,987.49.

Telecommunication services stocks led the gains, with Spark New Zealand Ltd rising 1.2 per cent to a near one-year high.

REUTERS