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Australian shares firm to seven-week high as financials rally; NZ rises

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares advanced to a seven-week high on Monday, led by broad based gains, with banks being the dominant contributor.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.5 per cent or 29.10 points to 5,982.70 at the close of trade. The benchmark added 0.7 per cent on Friday.

Banks were seeing a relief rally after the resignation of wealth manager AMP's chairwoman, said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Banks led the gainers on the benchmark, with Westpac Banking Corp climbing 1.2 per cent, its biggest one-day gain in nearly three-weeks, while National Australia Bank Ltd strengthened 1.3 per cent.

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AMP Ltd traded 0.5 per cent higher, snapping a 10-day losing streak.

The wealth manager announced the resignations of its chairwoman and legal counsel on Monday and slashed its directors' fees by a quarter, as it tries to contain the fallout from damaging revelations of misconduct at a judicial enquiry, known as a Royal Commission.

Real estate stocks were also firmer, with Stockland Corporation Ltd surging 3.2 per cent to a six-week high, while Goodman Group Pty Ltd rose 1.2 per cent to its highest in almost 10 years.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index jumped 0.9 per cent or 73.21 points to finish the session at 8,443.58.

Utilities and consumer staples underpinned the bullish trend, with Meridian Energy Ltd climbing 1.7 percent to a more than six-week high, while Synlait Milk Ltd rose 2.6 per cent.

REUTERS