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Banks help push Australian shares to over 1-month high; NZ falls

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Tuesday, driven by banks as benign inflation data backed expectations interest rates will remain accommodative for some time, but gains were capped by losses in materials on an extended slide in aluminium prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.6 per cent or 35.6 points at 5,921.60, extending a 0.3 per cent rise on Monday.

Data released earlier in the day showed Australian consumer prices stayed soft last quarter as core inflation began a third year below the central bank's target, cementing expectations any hike in interest rates is a long way off.

Banks accounted for most of the gains, with the Australian financial index rising about 1 per cent to a near two-week high.

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Index heavyweight Commonwealth Bank of Australia climbed 1.1 per cent, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd added 0.7 per cent.

Conversely, materials accounted for most of the losses, driven down by a slump in aluminium prices.

Bauxite miner South32 Ltd slumped 9.6 per cent, its biggest one-day percentage fall, while global miner Rio Tinto Ltd dropped 2.6 per cent.

Iron ore producer Fortescue Metals was also under pressure, falling about 2.4 per cent after it reported a 2 per cent decline in third-quarter iron ore shipments on reduced demand in China.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dipped 0.2 per cent or 14.98 points to finish at 8,288.64.

Consumer staples accounted for nearly half of the losses, with a2 Milk Company Ltd declining nearly about 3 per cent, while Synlait Milk fell 2.6 per cent.

REUTERS