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Australian shares end higher on energy stocks, miners

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended higher on Thursday, as miners and energy stocks rose on the back of higher commodities and oil prices ahead of renewed efforts this week to resolve the US-China trade conflict.

The S&P/ASX 200 index firmed about 0.5 per cent to close the day's trading at 6,593.40, extending gains into a third consecutive session.

High-level negotiations between Washington and Beijing are due to begin on Thursday, though chances of a resolution appear low after President Donald Trump said a quick trade deal was unlikely.

"I think it's a common word - 'hopium' - there's a lot of hope that we do see something. However, if you look at it realistically, there's really not a lot that I can see that would motivate China to getting a major deal done," said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

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"The reality is, because of decades of US manufacturing being hollowed out and outsourced, they're now in the dire position of renegotiating a trade deal with not a lot to offer."

Gains on the Australian bourse were led by energy stocks, which had their best day in almost two weeks.

Oil and gas explorer Santos Ltd rose more than 2 per cent after it flagged "extremely positive" oil flows at a field in Western Australia.

Mining stocks advanced, with index heavyweights Rio Tinto and BHP Group closing 1.1 per cent and 0.7 per cent higher, underpinned by a jump in iron ore prices.

Financial stocks firmed about 0.4 per cent, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia Ltd, the country's biggest lender, finishing the session up 0.9 per cent.

Shares of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group followed the broader trend, closing 0.4 per cent higher, even as the lender flagged a A$559 million (S$520.9 million) hit to its second-half profit from increased provisions for customer-related remediation.

However, gold stocks retreated 0.8 per cent, tracking a decline in bullion prices as investors moved back into risk assets.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 per cent to 11,016.15, closing higher for a third consecutive session.

Fonterra, the world's largest dairy producer, finished 1.3 per cent higher after it named Mercury NZ's CEO Fraser Whineray to the newly-created role of chief operating officer following last month's strategy revamp announcement.

REUTERS