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Australian shares rise for 5th day as investors dig miners; NZ also up


[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose for a fifth straight session on Thursday, with material stocks claiming the largest share of the gains on the back of surging metal and oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 per cent or 32.2 points to 5,893.6 by 0223 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.3 per cent on Wednesday.

Fears of tightening supply of aluminium and nickel following US sanctions on Russian mining giant Rusal have sent prices of the metals to multi-year highs.

Separately, prices for steel-making raw materials also rose, with the most-traded iron ore futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange up 4.5 per cent at 0129 GMT.

Market voices on:

"It's clear that the big lift we've seen in industrial commodities in overnight trading has not only fed into those markets but has lift share market sentiment," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

"In particular, the unexpected increased demand for oil appears to have helped investors focus on the good, stronger, underlying economies around the globe," Mr McCarthy added.

Top miner BHP Billiton was the biggest gainer by weight on the index, rising as much as 3.4 per cent after reporting an 8 per cent rise in third-quarter iron ore shipments.

"It was largely expected that BHP's iron ore expansion was done, and so this increase in production of about 8 per cent in the quarter was a surprise to the market," Mr McCarthy said.

BHP rival Rio Tinto was up as much as 3 per cent.

Alumina Ltd was the top advancer on the index, jumping 10.5 per cent to a near-decade high, riding the surge in prices of aluminium.

Meanwhile, data showed employment in Australia rose by 4,900 in March.

Wealth manager AMP Ltd countered some of the gains on the index, sliding 1.8 per cent to a more than four-year low.

AMP shares have lost over 8 per cent this week after an inquiry into the financial sector heard that the company lied to Australia's corporate watchdog for almost a decade to cover its widespread practice of charging customers for services it did not provide.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.2 per cent or 20.73 points to 8,390.22.

Headline inflation fell to just 1.1 per cent in the first quarter, suggesting the country's central bank is all but certain to signal it will keep rates on hold for some time.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company accounted for most of the gains on the index, up as much as 3.3 per cent.

Synlait Milk rose as much as 3.3 per cent to an all-time high.