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Miners, financials lead Australian shares higher; NZ down


[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended marginally higher on Wednesday, as solid gains in the mining and financial sectors - the benchmark index's biggest components - helped outweigh a decline in technology and healthcare stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index inched 0.4 per cent higher to 6638.00 at the close of trade. The benchmark slipped 0.5 per cent on Tuesday.

The mining index, whose constituents comprise the world's largest miners, closed 1.4 per cent higher, with investors encouraged by rising iron ore prices due to expectations that China would implement more economic stimulus to boost steel demand.

Industry heavyweight BHP Group gained 1.4 per cent, while peer Rio Tinto ended the session 2.2 per cent higher.

Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said an improving risk sentiment is driving people towards growth stocks instead of safe-havens, thus benefiting resource stocks.

The European Central Bank is expected to cut interest rates, or ramp up asset purchases, or both at a policy review on Thursday and expectations that major central banks will ease monetary policy further to support a flagging global economy has helped risk sentiment, along with hopes that talks next month between the United States and China will de-escalate their trade war.

Financials were up 0.6 per cent at close, their highest level in over a month, helped by the "Big Four" banks which each ended in positive territory.

National Australia Bank revised its outlook for interest rate cuts by the country's central bank, predicting at least two more easings to 0.5 per cent by February from previous forecast of one cut.

Meanwhile, the technology and healthcare indexes continued to weigh on the benchmark, slumping 1.6 per cent and 1.2 per cent lower at close, respectively.

Data solutions provider Appen Ltd tumbled about 6 per cent to end the session at a near four-month low, while drugmaker CSL Ltd fell 1.3 per cent at close.

Energy stocks forfeited earlier gains to end the session 0.5 per cent lower, with oil and gas major Santos Ltd shedding about 3 per cent and Oil Search slipping about 1 per cent lower.

Neighbour New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended almost 2 per cent lower at 10,924.88, pressured by telecom and energy stocks.

Electricity retailer Meridian Energy fell over 5 per cent ending the session at its lowest level in slightly over a week, while telecom company Spark New Zealand closed almost 5 per cent down.