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Australian shares end firmer buoyed by consumer sector; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended higher on Tuesday propped up by strength in consumer and pharmaceutical firms and amid a positive outcome at the closely-watched US-North Korea summit.

US President Donald Trump said "a lot of progress" had been made at his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, fuelling hopes of a deal to end a nuclear deadlock on the Korean peninsula.

The S&P/ASX 200 index advanced 0.2 per cent or 9.2 points to 6,054.4. Australian financial markets were closed on Monday.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim signed a "comprehensive" document following a historic summit in Singapore, setting in motion a diplomatic process that could bring lasting change to the security landscape of North-east Asia.

Only months earlier the two men had traded insults and tensions spiralled in the region over North Korea's nuclear programmes.

Consumer staples were the top advancers with retail conglomerate Wesfarmers adding as much as 1.3 per cent to its best close since the stock's debut in 1984.

Wesfarmers completed the sale of its loss-making UK home improvement chain Homebase, which it had bought for A$700 million (S$711.5 million) in 2016 and agreed to sell for £1 just two years later, ending a disastrous offshore foray.

Healthcare stocks, traditionally considered a safe haven in times of uncertainty, surged to a record close against the backdrop of the US-North Korea meeting.

CSL Ltd was the top boost for the main board and added 1.1 per cent to an all-time closing high.

Industrial stocks also helped sentiment with Sydney Airport Holdings Pty Ltd and toll-road operator Transurban Group climbing up to 3.4 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively.

However, weakness in base metal prices sapped confidence in material stocks which led the decliners on the benchmark.

Global miner Rio Tinto dropped 1.7 per cent while rival BHP Billiton Ltd fell 1.1 per cent.

Rio Tinto said Jakob Stausholm will succeed Chris Lynch as chief financial officer.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed slightly lower, down one point to 8,958.81. The index closed 0.2 per cent higher on Monday.

Ryman Healthcare and Auckland International Airport were the top drags, down 1.6 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.

REUTERS

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