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Australian shares end at over 11-year peak on RBA cues; NZ inches up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed at their highest in more than 11 years on Tuesday as an indication of future policy easing by the country's central bank triggered strong buying.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 per cent or 39.1 points to 6,570.0 at the close of trade. The benchmark fell 0.4 per cent on Monday. Trading volumes were at their highest in nearly three months, ahead of the quarterly futures expiry later in the week.

While caution ahead of a two-day US Federal Reserve policy meeting prompted early defensive buys into healthcare and gold stocks, dovish cues from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) around midday pushed most sectors to end stronger.

Minutes of the RBA's latest meeting, which was when the bank had cut its benchmark interest rate, showed that the bank believed further interest cuts were necessary to boost Australia's flagging economy.

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Financial stocks contributed to most gains on the benchmark, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the country's largest lender, closing 1.6 per cent higher.

Healthcare stocks closed at their highest level in more than nine months, with CSL Ltd, the fifth largest stock on the ASX 200, ending 1.8 per cent higher. The healthcare subindex ended up 1.3 per cent.

Gold stocks rose 1.5 per cent, with Newcrest Mining , the country's largest gold producer, up 1.1 per cent. Gold miners have benefited from recent risk-aversion.

Australia's number-two grocer, Coles Group, closed 3.5 per cent higher after it outlined plans to cut A$1 billion in costs over the next four years.

Map technology developer Nearmap Ltd was the largest intraday gainer on the ASX 200, closing 9.5 per cent higher having garnered increasing broker interest over the past week.

New Zealand shares ended slightly higher as gains across utilities and telecommunications were offset by a drop in heavyweight consumer stocks.

The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent or 21.07 points to finish the session at 10,191.33.

Electricity retailer Meridian Energy ended 2 per cent higher, while a2 Milk dropped 2.7 per cent. 

REUTERS