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Financials take Australia shares higher; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Thursday, with bank stocks leading gains on a positive turn in global sentiment as fears of an all-out trade war between the world's two largest economies abated.

Investors were more optimistic the US-China trade spat would simmer down after the United States expressed willingness to negotiate a resolution following China's counterpunch to slap tariffs on US imports.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.5 per cent, or 27.4 points, higher at 5,788.8. The benchmark had closed up 0.2 per cent on Wednesday.

The "Big Four" banks were the biggest boost on the benchmark and ended up more than 1 per cent each, followed by healthcare stock CSL Ltd adding 0.9 per cent.

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Treasury Wine Estates was up 1.8 per cent, while conglomerate Wesfarmers climbed 0.8 per cent.

On the other hand, iron ore and steel miners corked gains as BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals and Bluescope Steel fell between 0.7 per cent and 3.2 per cent. Iron ore and steel on the Dalian commodities exchange were lower on Wednesday before closing for a two-day holiday.

Shares of MG Unit Trust, the funding vehicle of Murray Goulburn dairy cooperative, ended 0.5 per cent lower after Murray's shareholders voted in favour of the US$1 billion takeover by Canadian cheesemaker Saputo Inc.

The deal, which is pending foreign investment board approval, would make Saputo the biggest diary processor in Australia, rivalling New Zealand's Fonterra . Fonterra Shareholders' Fund finished the session 3.2 per cent lower.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4 per cent, or 34.09 points, to 8,363.99 after having logged two straight days of gains.

Spark New Zealand weighed on the index the most, while Sky Network Television was the worst performer on the index, down 2.1 per cent.

REUTERS