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Australian stocks up on financials, NZ also higher

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares traded higher on Friday with financials accounting for more than half of the gains, after National Australia Bank Ltd raised home investor loan rates to clamp down on the "strong growth" in the segment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 per cent, or 15.31 points, at 5,801.10 as of 0114 GMT. The benchmark is on track for a second week of gains.

"This morning, all of the rise in the index can just be attributed to the four major banks, with NAB being the strongest gainer," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

The 'Big Four' banks gained between 0.5 per cent to 1.1 per cent.

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National Australia Bank, whose shares rose as much as 0.8 per cent, hiked its interest rates on residential investment loans by 25 basis points to 5.80 per cent on Thursday, becoming the first of the country's 'Big Four' lenders to raise mortgage rates.

"In terms of NAB's announcement yesterday, the expectation is that the other banks will follow," said Patersons Securities economist Tony Farnham.

Materials were the second biggest gainers on the index with Rio Tinto Ltd up as much as 1.2 per cent, extending gains into a fifth session of trading.

Both copper and Chinese iron ore rose for a fifth session on Thursday, while Shanghai rebar steel futures hit a three-year high.

Gold prices held firm on Friday not far from one-week highs hit the session before, and remaining on course for their first weekly rise in three. Newcrest Mining Ltd rose as much as two per cent.

Oil prices slipped on Thursday as US crude inventories near record high levels which raised concerns whether Opec-led output cuts were starting to drain a global glut. Oil prices, however, edged up in early trading on Friday.

Australian energy stocks were also among the losers with natural gas company Santos Limited losing 1.5 per cent and Origin Energy Ltd down 2.1 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent to 7,168.16 points, helped by gains in industrials and healthcare sectors. The benchmark is on track to snap two weeks of gains.

Auckland International Airport Ltd and Summerset Group Holdings Ltd rose 0.4 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively.