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Australian shares up as financials staunch losses; NZ down


[BENGALURU] Australian shares ticked higher on Thursday, supported by strong gains for the material sector and as financials snapped three straight days of losses as investors tried to come to terms with revelations of widespread misconduct in the industry.

The S&P/ASX 200 index advanced 0.4 per cent or 30.2 points to 6,176.3 at the close of trade, having risen 0.3 per cent on Wednesday.

Financial stocks rose 0.8 per cent, its first session of gains this week, following a period of weakness in the wake up a scathing interim report by a powerful Royal Commission inquiry on Friday.

The sector has been rocked by months of revelations of wrongdoing stemming from the inquiry, driving down share prices and trashing the reputations of some of the country's biggest companies.

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The Big Four banks rose between a range of 0.2 per cent to 0.9 per cent, with Westpac Banking Corp at the forefront.

Magellan Financial Group was the biggest per cent gainer, closing up 7.8 per cent, as the fund manager said its chairman and chief executive would swap roles.

Material stocks gained 1.2 per cent on the back of rising metal prices, led by aluminium which rose to their highest in more than three-months.

South32 and Alumina Ltd reaped the benefits of higher aluminium prices, with the former at a record high after getting interest from Johannesburg-listed Exxaro for its local coal assets.

Shares of Alumina rose 10.8 per cent and closed at its highest in 10 years.

"Commodities are holding up better now. It was the beaten- down sector in the last few months. There are people who are now dipping their toes into that sector again," said independent market strategist Greg McKenna.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 0.4 per cent or 36.77 points to finish the session at 9,257.18.

Index heavyweight a2 Milk Company fell 3.4 per cent to an over one-month low, while Auckland International Airport fell 1.9 per cent.