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Miners drive Australia shares to 16-month high; NZ treads water


[BENGALURU] Miners powered Australian shares to a 16-month peak on Wednesday, outshining Wall Street's nudge higher on upbeat consumer data.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 61.9 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 5689.8 by 0052 GMT.

The benchmark is on track to rise for a third-straight quarter in what will be its longest streak of quarterly gains since March 2014.

The index is also set for its best yearly performance since 2013. Volumes, however, were thin at around 14 per cent of the 30-day average.

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Wall Street edged up after news that American consumers'confidence shot to its highest in more than 15 years in December as they saw more strength ahead in business conditions, stock prices and the job market.

"Australia markets are following international leads - some better performances from European and US markets has helped trading," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Share movements are "also possibly exaggerated by the fact that we have got very thin trading as we approach the end of year," he added.

Sentiment was also boosted by oil prices which climbed 1.5 per cent on Tuesday driven by expectations of tighter supply once the first deal between Opec and non-Opec producers in 15 years to cut output takes effect on Sunday.

Oil major Woodside Petroleum climbed 0.3 per cent, extending gains into a fourth day while Santos Ltd jumped 2 per cent.

Global miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd were up 3 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively.

Financials, too, contributed to the gains with Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the country's biggest bank by market value, rising as much as 1.1 per cent to hit an 11-month high.

Australia's top grocer Woolworths Ltd soared as much as 3.1 per cent to touch a two month high after it said it would sell its chain of petrol stations to BP plc.

The gold index jumped more than 4 per cent after prices rose on Tuesday to a near two-week high on weak Japanese inflation data. Newcrest Mining climbed 3.6 per cent, extending gains into a sixth straight session in its longest winning streak since May 2015.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat at 6874.36.

Retirement village operator Metlifecare Ltd was among the top performers, rising 2.8 per cent.

Energy utility Vector Ltd and software provider Vista Group were the other big gainers, rising 1.9 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively.

At the other end, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare slipped 1.6 per cent.