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Australian shares supported by miners; NZ edges up


[BENGALURU] Australian shares were modestly higher on Thursday as investors counted down to the year-end in subdued trade, with miners taking the lead on the back of strong metals prices.

The low activity mirrored a muted Wall Street performance overnight, with trading volumes so far in the Sydney market roughly 12 per cent of their 30-day average.

"Financials are up point two of a per cent so they are not really doing anything at all. Telcos are up a little bit and there is a little bit of selling coming through in the utilities space," said Chris Weston, institutional lender at IG Markets.

"It is just the tweaking of positions ahead of year end." The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.1 per cent, or 5.7 points to 6,075.6 by 0057 GMT. The benchmark closed almost flat on Wednesday.

A rally in copper and gold prices boosted the mining sector. Gold was up for an eighth straight session on Wednesday as a weaker U.S. dollar encouraged investors to buy, while benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange rose to a near 4-year high, and aluminium prices jumped to a peak not seen since March 2012.

Diversified miner BHP Billiton rose 0.7 per cent to its highest since May, 2015 while peer Rio Tinto advanced 0.5 per cent to its highest in over six weeks.

Among financials, Commonwealth Bank of Australia led the sector up with a 0.7 per cent gain.

The real estate and industrial stocks fell on the day, with Retail Food Group Ltd tumbling 7.6 per cent. In the month to date, the stock has slumped more than 47 per cent. Earlier this month, the food and beverage company issued a profit warning, saying some of its businesses were trading below expectations.

In New Zealand, the benchmark tacked on 0.1 per cent, or 11.14 points, to 8,387.57 helped by gains in the consumer discretionary and utilities sectors.

Hotel and casino operator Skycity Entertainment Group Ltd, was a highlight, up as much as 2 per cent to its highest in more than a week.