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Australian shares end up on materials, banks; NZ hits new peak

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged up on Thursday led by material stocks and banks although gains were capped by AMP's fall after the wealth manager was slapped with its fourth class action lawsuit.

Wall Street indexes rallied on Wednesday buoyed by financial stocks as investors eyed strong economic data and as trade war fears took a back seat.

The S&P/ASX 200 index advanced 0.5 per cent or 32.2 points to 6,057.3. The benchmark added 0.5 per cent on Wednesday.

Investors picked up material stocks as upbeat base metal prices coupled with a weaker dollar added to their appeal.

Top miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto gained more than two per cent each with BHP providing the biggest boost to the benchmark index.

Bank stocks also fared well with the "Big Four" banks adding up to 0.8 per cent, following their US peers, but Australia's biggest wealth manager AMP closed at its worst level in more than nine years.

The company confirmed it had been served with another class action proceeding in Australia's Federal Court and said it intended to vigorously defend all proceedings.

Australian law firms have been suing AMP on behalf of its shareholders after allegations of misconduct - allegedly charging fees for services not provided.

Elsewhere, retail conglomerate Wesfarmers closed at its highest in over 3 years after its managing director said the company will focus on existing businesses and expects dividend policy to remain unchanged.

Real estate stocks, traditionally seen as bond proxies, bucked the overall trend with property managers such as Stockland and Mirvac Group losing about one per cent each after a rise in US Treasury yields.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index climbed one per cent to end at a record of 8,899.52. The index has had three successive days of record close.

Consumer staples and industrial stocks drove the gains on the index.

A2 Milk Company was the top boost, adding 4 per cent while Fletcher Building rose 2.2 per cent to its best close since February.

REUTERS

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