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Australian shares inch up as oil jumps, NZ down


[BENGALURU] Australian shares traded slightly higher on Thursday, lifted by the jump in oil prices and reflecting gains on Wall Street, as policymakers hinted at the possibility of faster interest-rate hikes after Donald Trump becomes takes office as President.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.33 per cent or 19.191 points to 5,755 by 1254 GMT, on track for its third straight session of gains, after hitting its highest since June 2015. The benchmark was flat on Wednesday.

"Today's movement is more on the back of oil price shifting up overnight. The draw is coming from the energy and materials sector rather than financials," said Evan Lucas, Market Strategist from IG markets.

Oil prices rose almost 2 per cent on expectations of a drop in US crude inventories and growing confidence that parties to the Opec output reduction deal will implement the agreed cuts from this week.

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Oil Search and Origin Energy gained 0.5 per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively.

Sentiment was also boosted by gains on Wall Street following minutes from the Fed's December meeting reflecting a view that increased economic growth under the incoming Trump administration could demand quicker interest-rate increases to ward off inflation.

The "Big Four" banks extended gains to a third consecutive session. Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 0.6 per cent to hit a one-year high, Australia and New Zealand Banking Corp rose to its highest in 17 months while National Bank of Australia touched a 14-month high.

The All Ordinaries Gold Index hit a one-month high as gold climbed to its highest in nearly four weeks after the dollar stepped back from a 14-year peak and demand from China and India increased.

Newcrest Mining, Australia's biggest producer of gold led gains in the benchmark, advancing as much as 2.3 per cent, to strike its highest in a month.

Mining heavyweights Rio Tinto Ltd and South32 Ltd gained 0.7 per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged lower 0.2 per cent or 13.790 points, to 6,960, after hitting its highest in 2 months in early trade.

Materials fell with Fletcher Building down 1.5 per cent. Industrials was also down with Auckland International Airport falling 1.4 per cent.