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Australian shares rise as Qantas surges, banks firm; NZ up too

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[BENGALURU]  Australian shares advanced on Wednesday, driven by gains for industrials after Qantas Airways forecast a record annual profit.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 per cent or 35.0 points to 6,050.2 at the close of trade. The benchmark on Tuesday added 0.5 per cent.

Australia's largest airline Qantas soared 8.1 per cent, its biggest one-day gain since December 2014, to a near six-month high.

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The company forecast underlying profit before tax in a range of A$1.55 billion (S$1.6 billion) to A$1.60 billion for the fiscal year that will end on June 30, compared with A$1.4 billion one year earlier.

Positive sentiment emanating from the "Flying Kangaroo" spilled into other sectors, with the Australian industrials index climbing 1.5 per cent to a more than four-month high.

Toll road operator Transurban Group jumped 0.6 per cent to its highest since March 12, while Seek Ltd strengthened 2.4 per cent to a near six-week high.

Financials extended gains into a fourth-consecutive session, as encouraging developments on big banks supported buying.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the biggest lender, ticked up 0.4 per cent while Westpac Banking Corp rose 0.3 per cent.

Grocery giant Woolworths Group Ltd rose 0.9 per cent to a near three-year high. The company reported a 4.4 per cent rise in third-quarter same-store food sales, beating rival Coles' performance during the same period.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index firmed 0.7 per cent or 58.27 points to finish at 8,494.24.

Consumer staples were the dominant gainers, with dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd surging 3.5 per cent to a near two-week high. 

REUTERS