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BHP boosts Aussie shares after massive shareholder return; NZ up

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[BENGALURU] Australia's benchmark index closed slightly higher on Thursday as shares in BHP shot up as much as 6.2 per cent after the world's biggest miner announced a blockbuster $10.4 billion shareholder return.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.18 per cent or 10.500 points to close at 5,840.800.

The metals and mining index was the largest boost to the benchmark, driven by gains in BHP.

BHP's Australia-listed shares soared as the firm stuck to its earlier promise of returning the entire net proceeds from the sale of its U.S. shale business to shareholders.

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Meanwhile, shares of Rio Tinto Ltd rose 2.3 per cent, while Fortescue Metals Group Ltd firmed 2.9 per cent.

Among financial stocks which fell was benchmark heavyweight Commonwealth Bank of Australia which weakened 1 per cent.

Before the market open, the lender said it would issue debt through a hybrid capital notes offer to raise about A$750 million.

Energy stocks slipped 0.9 per cent at the close, reflecting weaker oil prices.

Sector giant Woodside Petroleum Ltd fell 1 per cent and Santos Ltd shed 1.5 per cent.

Among real estate stocks, Dexus lost 2.6 per cent and Mirvac Group fell 2.3 per cent.

Home prices in Sydney posted their worst annual performance since 1990 in October, dragging national values lower.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 1.05 per cent or 91.5200 points higher to finish the session at 8,843.8300.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company rose 2.7 per cent.

REUTERS